For the third time in less than six years, Kyrie Irving is on the move. And oddsmakers already have lofty expectations for his next stop.
The embattled All-NBA guard was traded to the Mavericks on Sunday, just two days after requesting a trade from the Nets and threatening to sit out the entire season before leaving in free agency.
In return, Brooklyn received guard Spencer Dinwiddie, forward Dorian Finney-Smith, and three draft picks, including an unprotected 2029 first-round pick, per multiple sources.
The move sent shockwaves through the league and ended a frenzied bidding war that saw the Mavericks move into the upper echelon of title favorites – while at least two other teams saw their title odds plummet after Sunday’s blockbuster trade.
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2023 NBA championship odds
|Golden State Warriors||+1000|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+1000|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+2200|
|Los Angeles Lakers||+5000|
Before Sunday’s stunning move, the Mavericks were dealing at 25/1 to win it all at BetMGM less than a year after their run to the Western Conference Finals. After the deal, Dallas’ price was slashed to 12/1, where it still sits as of Monday morning behind seven other teams in a tense NBA title race.
The Nets saw a similarly dramatic shift in the other direction after trading Irving, who opted into his player option this summer with eyes on one final run with Kevin Durant and co. After his exodus, Brooklyn saw its price balloon to 22/1 – a far cry from its 7/1 price just three days ago and even its 14/1 price in the hours before the deal.
The other big loser on Sunday? The Lakers had seen their title odds creep from 40/1 last week to as short as 20/1 over the weekend amid rumors of a potential Irving coup. Instead, the Mavericks won the arms race in the West for the controversial scoring guard, and oddsmakers re-installed Los Angeles as a 50/1 long shot in the wake of its failed trade bid.
Mavericks’ odds move to 12/1
On paper, it’s easy to see why the market reacted so strongly to the Mavericks’ move on Sunday amid the team’s years-long quest to pair Luka Doncic with a second star.
Even before the trade, Dallas led the league in isolation rate (13%) and fifth in points per iso possession (1.04) thanks in large part to Doncic’s wizardry with the basketball. That approach was key to the Mavericks’ deep playoff run last year and teases immense potential with Irving playing the Jalen Brunson role in this year’s iteration.
Of course, this trade doesn’t come without concerns – on and off the court.
Irving has been in and out of the lineup in his four years in Brooklyn, missing 142 of a possible 298 games (47.7%), including the postseason, and never advancing past the second round. That came amid multiple controversies, including his refusal to get vaccinated in 2020 and his suspension earlier this season for tweeting a link to an anti-Semitic film.
There are issues on the court, too, particularly defensively. While Dallas’ iso-heavy offense was instrumental to its Western Conference Finals run last year, so was its elite switching defense that relied on all five defenders carrying their weight. That won’t be so easy with Doncic and Irving making up two-fifths of the starting rotation – especially with versatile defender Finney-Smith on his way out.
Betting on the NBA?
Clearly, the Mavericks are betting on Irving and Doncic to power an offense so efficiently that it masks all other shortcomings – similar to the Nets’ gamble when they united Irving, Durant, and James Harden in 2021. That only worked so long before injuries and depth issues rendered Brooklyn one of the biggest what-ifs in NBA history.
Perhaps this time will be different for Irving and for the team staking its future in his offensive brilliance. It’s a steep price to pay – both for the Mavericks and for bettors targeting them at such short odds – and it shouldn’t take long to know whether it’s worth the wager.