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  • Rene Ramirez

The Three Biggest Influences in the Kyrie Irving Trade

- Rene Ramirez

On February 5th, just four days before the 2022 - 2023 NBA Trade Deadline, the Dallas Mavericks acquired the biggest fish available in the trade market sea, Kyrie Irving. This came after Irving, represented by his stepmother, Riley Irving, requested a trade due to a failure of progress in reaching a fully-guaranteed contract extension with the Brooklyn Nets, who signed Irving to a four-year contract in tandem with Kevin Durant in the 2019 offseason. According to Brian Lewis of The New York Post, Irving had been seeking a new four-year, $198 million contract, but a long list of off-court baggage has drawn much hesitancy to grant such a contract without stipulations.

The Mavericks, in a desperate move to appease their twenty-three-year-old superstar, Luka Dončić, took the Irving bait and gave up Dorian-Finney Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, a 2029 first-round pick, and two-second round picks, according to ESPN insider, Adrian Wojnarowski. With many high-caliber player trades, several powerful influences within an organization tend to have direct connections to their trade target. The Kyrie Irving trade is no different, however, rather than a former teammate or coach being at the forefront of influence, the connections to the 8x All-Star start in the Maverick's front office.

1. Nico Harrison

Prior to being hired as president of basketball operations and general manager of the Dallas Mavericks, Harrison was a Nike executive for nineteen years, where, from a strong foundational point as Kobe Bryant’s marketing liaison, he built a plethora of relationships with NBA players. Maverick’s owner, Mark Cuban, saw the potential Harrison’s personability had to

draw superstars in free agency, a task the (Glenn James/Getty Images)

organization consistently failed to do the decade prior. Irving, a former twelve-year Nike athlete, had a working relationship with Harrison, who had gained considerable power within Nike Basketball’s marketing division, earning the title of vice president of North American basketball operations. Harrison’s relationship with Irving is one that will prove pivotal in off-season extension talks.

2. Jason Kidd

Kidd, ironically a Nets legend, and now second-year Mavericks head coach, voiced a strong desire to land Irving. Having only two years of overlap in their playing careers, Kidd has mostly observed Irving’s talents on a coaching level. As an Eastern Conference head coach in the big three Cavs era, Kidd was a direct witness to Irving’s prime, (Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

and more importantly his capabilities as a closer and complementary ball carrier to LeBron James, a role he’ll similarly play with Luka Dončić. Kidd’s offensive implementation of Irving will have a major role in alleviating Dončić’s career-high usage rate (38.5%), in hopes of preventing burnout come playoff time.

3. Luka Dončić

Heliocentric basketball is epitomized by the Luka Dončić Mavericks. The high volatility of this system has proved to have a hard limit on the team’s success. The Mavericks, fully aware of their pecking order in the NBA, have previously attempted to surround their young superstar with talent, most notably (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

with the Kristaps Porziņģis trade package in 2019 that also included current starter, Tim Hardaway Jr. This swing for the Latvian star proved to be a miss, and consequently, the Mavericks were left without a 2021 first-round pick and most likely a 2023 first-round pick. The Maverick’s 2022 offseason created an odd situation in which second-round standout Jalen Brunson signed with the New York Knicks just weeks after Rockets’ big man Christian Wood was traded in exchange for draft capital. Despite his formidable play, Wood is still without an extension, making him an unrestricted free agent this upcoming offseason. Thus, with the openness of the Western Conference, the urgency for immediate Dončić support seemed to be at an all-time high. Dončić’s overt win-now mindset was exemplified when signing off on the Irving trade after consultation from the front office.

The skewed risk-reward ratio that comes with the acquisition of a player on an expiring contract has led many to believe that the rest of the season is truly make-or-break for a Mavericks title. This perception may hold some truth, however, if Irving departs in the offseason, the Mavericks will have a near-max contract amount of cap space, which could be used on an anticipated free-agent star. What Irving’s, at minimum, twenty-seven games with the Mavericks will prove, is the compatibility a second non-big man superstar will have next to one of the league’s future generation-defining players. If a deep run, like last year’s Western Conference Finals appearance, were to occur, the chances of an Irving extension or a major free-agent pickup would likely increase.

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