The Mavericks Reuniting LeBron James With Kyrie Irving Would Be a Mistake

James and Irving played together in Cleveland from 2014 through 2017 and won a title

LeBron James handles the ball against Kyrie Irving of the Mavericks.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving getting back together in Dallas would not end well
Ron Jenkins/Getty

Even though he is not currently a member of the Mavericks, future unrestricted free agent Kyrie Irving is trying to convince LeBron James to work out a deal to get himself out of Los Angeles and come play in Dallas, according to multiple sources. Reuniting James and Irving, who played together in Cleveland from 2014 through 2017 and won a title, would give Dallas a Big Three in Big D with Luka Dončić serving as the third superstar for the Mavs.

With James, who hinted at retirement after the Lakers were eliminated from the postseason but is expected to return for his 21st NBA season, under contract with LA next season for $46.9 million, a trade would have to be worked out in order to get him to Dallas to team with Irving. The Mavericks do have the No. 10 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, but will likely have to convey next year’s selection to the Knicks to complete the 2019 trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas and can’t trade it.

Aside from Dončić, Dallas’ roster is fairly devoid of talent to trade for James because they sent Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith (along with an unprotected 2029 first-round pick and second-round selections in 2027 and 2029) to Brooklyn to bring Irving to the Mavericks. At the time of that trade, the Mavericks were 29-26 and ranked fifth in the Western Conference. After the deal went down, the Mavs went 9-17 — 8-13 in games in which Irving played — to fall out of playoff contention. The Mavs do have some pieces (Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Josh Green and Christian Wood), but it’s difficult to see the Lakers giving up James for spare parts and future picks.

Of course, if James decides he wants out of LA and uses the potential of retirement as leverage, he can force his way out of town, as the Lakers would be better served to get something for the 38-year-old instead of losing him for nothing. But, would a trio of James, Irving and Dončić actually work out? On paper, sure. On the court, no way.

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James, Irving and Dončić are all ball-dominant players who are used to being the focal point of an offense. They are all good at distributing the ball and creating their own shots off of the dribble, but none are great stop-and-catch shooters. Also, aside from James at times when he is engaged, none are elite defensive players or rebounders. With Dončić, James and Irving (who is eligible to sign a five-year contract in the neighborhood of $270 million if he stays with Dallas) in the fold, the Mavericks would be able to put up plenty of points, but they would also likely turn the ball over at a ridiculous rate and allow opposing offenses to score at will.

Sounds like a high-priced recipe for dysfunction if not disaster — and that’s leaving the drama that follows Irving like a dark cloud out of the equation. Adding that factor into the calculus, it seems pretty clear the Mavs should stay away from James and possibly avoid re-signing Irving as well.

According to The Athletic, a Lakers source characterized the possibility of James landing in Dallas for next season as “unrealistic,” though technically possible. “After going 5-11 when Dončić and Irving played together this season and finishing as the No. 11 seed in the West, it’s understandable why the Mavericks would be interested in trading for James and forming the league’s latest attempt at a big three,” per the publication. “They are desperate to ensure Dončić remains in Dallas for the long term (he could become a free agent in 2026). But acquiring James before he can be a free agent in 2024 is just not reasonable…James to Dallas is possible…but mostly improbable.”

Good for Dallas.

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