The Dallas Mavericks acquired superstar Kyrie Irving before the 2022 NBA trade deadline. The trade was official on February 7, and the Mavs were fifth in the Western Conference, tied with the Phoenix Suns. The expectation was for them to retain that position or even raise their spot in the standings, but it went the other way for Dallas.
The Mavs have been eliminated from play-in contention as they slide down to 11th place in the West after the Irving acquisition. A plethora of reasons can be pointed out for the primary factors of their unmitigated disaster, and it cannot be pinpointed to one person or one decision.
Entering Friday night, Dallas had a prime chance to keep pace with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the last play-in spot, yet Mark Cuban and the rest of the squad decided to rest their main guys. Their decision irked many NBA pundits, and the league is now investigating the Mavs’ actions.
Trickle effect on Mavs’ culture
Tanking has been a staple for many teams, such as Sam Hinkie’s strategy with the Philadelphia 76ers or Sam Presti’s approach with the Thunder. The enormous problem with sitting guys down or losing on purpose is how to prove it from a legal perspective. In this instance, the NBA has taken action to investigate the issue of the Mavs’ roster decisions and game conduct, as the league felt they might have violated the anti-tanking policies.
A section in Article 13 of the tanking policies states, “An owner may not attempt to lose or control the score of any game.” Some plausible punishments of this action are losing future draft picks, a $1 million fine, or even worse, a loss of franchise ownership.”
Head coach Jason Kidd stated in the postgame interview that Owner Mark Cuban and General Manager Nico Harrison instructed the team to sit their nucleus for the season’s last two games. The primary rationale is for them to keep their top-10 projected lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Moreover, it was ironic for the organization to make Luka Doncic play for one quarter because it was Slovenian night at the American Airlines Center.
Doncic scored 13 early points and sat for the rest of the game. That was the same for Jaden Hardy, who had a wonderful start in their game against the Bulls. The players on the floor led McKinley Wright IV ahead for most of the game but lost it in the end, making it too obvious that they were throwing the game away.
The future of Luka Doncic
In a report by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, fear exists within the Mavs organization that Luka Doncic can request a trad in 2024 if the franchise does not surround him with talented supplementary players. Another season down the drain wherein they were not competitive increases the frustration and disappointment from Doncic’s perspective.
The Irving and Christian Wood moves show that the Mavs have the initiative to add complementary pieces, but the Jalen Brunson loss was a massive question mark on Dallas’ decision-making. Since Irving might leave in free agency, it means there will be another gaping role in the Mavs’ roster. By tanking a game to keep a future draft pick, what kind of sign does that send to Luka Doncic in terms of the winning mentality of the squad?
Even with one game remaining, the 2022-23 campaign is unforgettable for the Dallas Mavericks. The mistakes started in the offseason, and they must learn from them soon. If not, Luka Doncic might be headed to L.A. or New York before they know it.