The Dallas Mavericks travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers, a team many anticipate winning it all this year, tonight at 8:30PM Central on NBA TV.
What did the Cavaliers do over the summer?
The Cavaliers had the biggest summer in the NBA. They persuaded free agent LeBron James to give them another try and sent the 2013 and 2014 number one draft picks to Minnesota in order to bring Kevin Love to town. As most Mavericks fans know, they signed veteran Shawn Marion to back up James, giving him the veteran's minimum in exchange for a chance to win it all one more time, and they brought in LeBron's old teammate, shooting guard Mike Miller. Needless to say, they look very little like the 33-win lottery team of last season.
What have they done lately?
The Cavs have gone 4-0 in their preseason, racking up wins against Miami in center Anderson Varejao's home country of Brazil as part of the NBA's Global Games and against Maccabi Tel Aviv, Milwaukee, and Indiana back home.
Who on the Cavs might be due for a big game?
In the preseason, big games often come from the guys trying to squeeze into that last roster spot or convince the coach that they deserve a primary back-up spot. Cleveland's roster is mostly complete, but there are a few questions remaining.
The first is what the Cavs are going to do at center. Anderson Varejao has been consistently excellent throughout his long career in Cleveland, but he's also been consistently hobbled by injury and limited in the number of minutes he can play. Anderson is backed up by Mavericks alum Brendan Haywood, who missed all of last season with a foot injury, and undrafted rookie Alex Kirk. There's also been some talk that with such limited options in the post, Tristan Thompson, Love's back-up at power forward, could see some minutes at center. Expect to see all three of those players trying to impress during Friday's game.
Another player to watch is Dion Waiters, who turned heads over the summer when he tweeted that he wouldn't give up his role as a starter after the Cavs acquired LeBron. With a trio of stars on the team now, Waiters has spent the preseason trying to find his place in the new Cavs order, with mixed performances.
At the point guard position, Aussie Matthew Dellevedova and veteran A.J. Price are battling for the role of primary back-up, and with Kyrie Irving out, they've both been getting plenty of opportunity this preseason.
What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against the Cavaliers?
The Cavs' strong offense could prove one of the biggest challenges in the league for a Dallas defense that's looking to improve. We won't see either team playing at full steam during a preseason game, but it should still be interesting to watch.
In terms of who you can expect to see on the court tonight, LeBron is expected to play, though Love injured his neck in Wednesday's game against the Pacers. Head coach David Blatt has said he hopes Love will be available, but don't be surprised if he sits this one out. Kyrie Irving remains out with a sprained ankle.
Dirk returned to action earlier this week after missing the first two preseason games with a mild hip injury, but Dallas will be without Raymond Felton (ankle) and possibly without Monta Ellis (knee), who's listed as day-to-day but has returned to practice.