Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić in the same backcourt? Boardroom breaks down the deal that pairs the eight-time All-Star with the MVP candidate.
When Kyrie Irving signed with the Brooklyn Nets in 2019, he sat inside Roosevelt Middle School in West Orange with a throwback New Jersey Nets hat — a NJ native himself who grew up watching Jason Kidd’s Nets one short ride away from the Meadowlands.
Less than four years later, Irving is on his way out of Brooklyn to go play for Kidd in Dallas.
As first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania and made official by the teams on Monday, the Nets traded Irving to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a first-round pick, and two second-rounders. The deal brings Brooklyn a sought-after 3-and-D wing in Finney Smith and a reunion with former PG in Dinwiddie. For Dallas, they mortgage some of their core pieces to go all-in on a lethal backcourt duo with Luka Doncic and Irving.
Irving’s time in Brooklyn was complex — to say the least. A basketball savant, he averaged 27 points with two All-Star nods. The problem was his availability, or lack thereof, playing in 143 games out of a possible 278. There was no doubt about his skill set, but his tenure in the borough became filled with controversy. He missed time after violating COVID policies in 2020, went on a hiatus in 2021, sat out most of 2021-22 due to New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and then missed time in the 2022-23 season after promoting a book/film with antisemitic rhetoric.
All in all, the juice was worth the squeeze during his initial four-year, $136,490,600 contract … until it was time for a long-term commitment. Irving became eligible for a five-year, $256 million extension after playing only 29 games this past offseason. The Nets, reluctant to give such a contract given the inconsistency, decided against it which led to Irving opting into the final year of his deal worth $37 million.
As the clock ticked and the trade deadline loomed, Irving made his intentions clear about wanting a contract extension, which would’ve been a four-year, $198.5 million deal. He then requested a trade. The two sides didn’t come to an agreement and Irving was shipped to Dallas, one day after sitting out with “right calf soreness.”
The Nets are fourth in the East with a 32-20 record and have played the last 12 games without Kevin Durant because of a sprained MCL. So, the Kyrie-Brooklyn era is over and a new one begins in Dallas in what feels a bit like a major game in a championship-or-bust season.
In Brooklyn, the Nets get two serviceable players, but they seemingly have more deals to make if they want to be a championship team. They have enough draft capital and tradable assets to continue building before Thursday’s deadline.
There are several factors that come into a trade like this, one that felt extraordinary and random both at the same time even if it once felt inevitable, not so long ago. Let’s try to wrap our heads around this one.
Team & Player Finances Following the Kyrie Irving Trade
Nets Cap Space: $-64,966,970
Aside from shedding any long-term spending on Irving, the Nets also saved roughly $28.8 million in luxury taxes — previously $108 million to $80 million barring any big moves. Per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade also gives two trade exceptions for the Nets — one worth $5.0 million and the other $1.8 million.
- Years: 4
- Total Value: $55,600,000
- 2022 Salary: $12.4 million
Finney-Smith has a 15% trade bonus that is valued at $1.6M. Dallas is responsible for the bonus.
- Years: 3
- Total Value: $54,000,000
- 2022 Salary: $18,000,000
Dinwiddie earned a $1.5M games played bonus. The Mavericks are responsible for the bonus.
Mavericks Cap Space: $-57,363,731
Dallas took on Irving’s $37 million and Morris’ $1.8 million contract for a $28.8 million tax increase. They could have max room if Irving doesn’t re-sign, but they’d be giving up an awful lot for a rental player. Expectations suddenly grow exponentially higher in the Big D.
- Years: 1 (opt-in)
- Total Value: $36,503,300
- 2022 Salary: $36,503,300
- Trade Bonus: $2 million
Irving would’ve been eligible for four years, $198.5 million extension with Brooklyn. In Dallas, he is eligible to sign a two-year, $78.6 million extension until June 30.
- Years: 1
- Total Value: $2,905,851
- Cap Hit: $1,836,090
As noted, Irving grew up watching Jason Kidd when he was a kid. Now, Kidd will be his head coach. Furthermore, the eight-time All-Star has close ties with Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison, a former executive at Nike.
There’s more, too. Senior Director of pro personnel, Matt Riccardi, has a rapport with Irving after he spent time in New Jersey/Brooklyn’s front office for 13 years. Finally, there’s Andrew Baker — who worked under Sean Marks in Brooklyn as Director of Contract Management from 2016-2021. Now with Dallas, Baker is the Senior Director of Salary Cap & Strategy.
The Dinwiddie-Brooklyn connections are pretty self-explanatory. Brooklyn gave Dinwiddie his first real NBA opportunity as he ascended from G-Leaguer to starting PG during his time from 2016-2021.
Before the trade, the Brooklyn Nets were +700 to win the 2023 NBA Finals — third-best odds in all of the Association. After the trade, the Nets dropped all the way down to +2200 — 11th-best odds.
Before the trade, Dallas was +2700 to win the title. After the Kyrie trade, they spiked to +1400 — seventh-best odds in the NBA.
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