OPINION: Why the Mavericks are missing the mark

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić argues for a call during a game against the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 30.

On Feb. 5, the landscape of the NBA changed when superstar point guard Kyrie Irving was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, joining elite guard Luka Dončić.

The Mavericks took a considerable risk trading for Irving because he will become a free agent this off-season. Rumors around the league are that Irving wants to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, reuniting with his former teammate, forward LeBron James.

Irving was previously on the Brooklyn Nets with superstar forward Kevin Durant.
The same week Irving was traded, Durant was sent to the Phoenix Suns.

Everyone involved with the Mavericks was excited when the trade happened. Dallas gave away Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks in last year’s offseason, who was seen as the only other shot-maker on the team.

Getting Irving was a sigh of relief for Dončić, who hadn’t played with an athlete of Irving’s caliber since he was drafted. In the trade for Irving, the Mavericks gave away Dorian Finney-Smith, their best wing defender.

When Irving arrived in Dallas, Dončić was injured, meaning fans weren’t able to watch the duo until a couple of games later. In the two games Irving played without Dončić, they won against the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings. Dončić returned during Irving’s third game with the Mavericks, a game against the Kings they lost 133–128.

The two superstars didn’t get their first win together until after the all-star break against the San Antonio Spurs on Feb. 23, where they won a 142–116 blowout.

As of now, Dallas has fallen to No. 11 in the Western Conference standings, going 3–7 in their last 10 games. Two of those losses came against a team with one of the worst records in the NBA, the Charlotte Hornets.

All year long, the Mavericks have struggled with one thing, and that is defense. They can’t get enough stops to win ball games.

Recently, the Mavericks played against the Indiana Pacers. Dallas center JaVale McGee had some big production off the bench, being a defensive stopper. He hasn’t played too many games, but when he has played, he has produced for the Mavericks.

Much of the Mavericks’ lack of success deals with head coach Jason Kidd. While Kidd was able to lead the team to the Western Conference finals last season, he has fans scratching their heads, wondering why he isn’t playing high-production players like McGee and forward Christian Wood.

Dončić and Irving have struggled with different injuries for weeks, not being 100% in many of their games together. The Mavericks can’t afford to lose any more games this season if they want a playoff berth.

In the Western Conference, the No. 4-11 seeds are all 3.5 games apart from each other, meaning anything can happen during this last stretch of the season.

If they want to make the playoffs, it starts on the defensive end of the ball. If they don’t make the playoffs this offseason, the Mavericks need to re-sign Irving and develop a better system with actual rim protectors who can score from beyond the arc.