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Could Mavericks shut down Dončić, Irving for final three games?

Dallas Mavericks v Atlanta Hawks

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 02: Kyrie Irving #2 and Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks react against the Atlanta Hawks during the fourth quarter at State Farm Arena on April 02, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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The Dallas Mavericks sit as the No. 11 seed in the West, outside even the play-in and one game back of the No.10 seed Thunder... except that’s really two games with the Thunder owning the tiebreaker.

With three games left in their season, the Mavericks need to win out and hope to get some help from the Thunder to make the play-in (fivthirtyeight.com projects both teams finish 39-43, with the tie going to the Thunder). It’s a long shot. On top of that, the Mavericks pick this year is owed to the Knicks (the Kristaps Porzingis trade) but is top-10 protected — Dallas currently would keep that pick at No.10, but Utah is tied in the loss column right now but half-a-game back overall.

All of which is why the Mavericks are considering shutting down Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving for the season, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“I’m told that the organization is seriously considering the possibility of shutting down those guys. They have a top 10 protected pick, so being out of the play-in race, it behooves them to try to keep their pick. And at that point, you have the flexibility of having that there’s a top 10 pick. You have three first-round picks that you can trade this offseason to go get a star and potentially more players in the marketplace. They’re going to be one of the more active teams.”

Oklahoma City plays at Golden State on Tuesday, the outcome of that game could impact the Mavericks’ decision about the next step. But even if the Mavericks get into the play-in as the 10 seed, they would need to win two road games to make the playoffs. Wednesday the Mavericks host a good but stumbling Kings team.

Irving is an unrestricted free agent this summer and while the fit with Dončić has been clunky so far, the buzz around the league is Dallas will try to re-sign him (the length of that deal will be interesting) and surround him and Dončić with better defenders and shooters. Plus, ideally, a third quality shot creator. (Ultimately, if the pairing doesn’t work out, the Mavericks can trade Irving, but if he walks they do not have the cap space to replace him.)

All of that roster shuffling is easier to do if the Mavericks have a top-10 pick to trade.

Dallas will be one of the most entertaining teams to watch this off-season. No matter what happens in the final three games.