In as perfect an opening night as you could ask for, the Mavericks blew out the Suns in Phoenix with a 111-95 win on Wednesday that included Raymond Felton playing hero. Missing Chandler Parsons -- who could return Sunday against the Lakers -- and JaVale McGee, the Mavericks kicked it into high gear all game anyway, looking sharp offensively and playing good enough defense around 30 percent until the fourth quarter rolled around.
We all know the summer didn't go as planned and that the Mavericks aren't contending for a title (well, most of us realize that), but there's a lot of hope this season can be a fun one. This game is just 1.2 percent of the NBA season, but if it's indicative in any way of what's to come, there's real cause to be excited. Dallas has an offense attack and more importantly,
Raymond Felton is an actual player
We didn't see ol' Raymond last season but for a late-season game-winning cameo, but this season might be different. Felton, entering a contract season, started at shooting guard with Chandler Parsons still sitting out and played an excellent all-around game. Felton led the team in scoring (!!) with 18 points, including a timely three-pointer in the fourth quarter when Phoenix hinted at a comeback. He tossed six assists, too.
Felton's emergence might be most important because Dallas desperately needs an insurance policy for when Deron Williams inevitably gets hurt. J.J. Barea starting games is bad for everyone involved. Felton may be able to be that guy.
First look at the rotation
The first two subs were Jeremy Evans and Dwight Powell, who joined the front court next to starter Zaza Pachulia. Evans at the three meant there was no room for John Jenkins or Justin Anderson until the closing minutes of the Suns' blowout -- and that's OK. Jenkins, surely, will see some chances in the second night of a back-to-back tomorrow against the Clippers. Despite his strong preseason, he hasn't actually proven his ability as a rotation player. Both are good spot options for when Dallas needs to add an offensive or defensive burst to the game.
Dwight Powell got the primary minutes as the backup center and was mostly good. He's not a great finisher inside but he sneakily draws contact, which is definitely a good ability to have as a backup center. As long as he keeps rebounding and hits a fair amount of inside shots, he'll keep the position over the unproven Salah Mejri.
Charlie Villanueva got 15 minutes and Dirk Nowitzki only played 20. Dirk's minutes will be an interesting case -- certainly he can play more than that, but with a back-to-back looming and a blowout happening without him, there's no need for the Mavericks to force it.
Of course, J.J. Barea played 24 minutes and had a team-worst minus-12 plus-minus, although some of that can be attributed to finishing the game with the backups. We'll keep an eye on him.
There's so much balance
Eight players in double figures while Matthews had nine points! Ten made three-pointers on 21 attempts! Zaza Pachulia went for a double-double while Tyson Chandler was held completely ineffective with some foul trouble! The motion offense of yesteryear, before the Rondo trade, is back with a vengeance, it seems. It won't be historically effective like the start of last season, not without proper rim rollers like Brandan Wright and Tyson, but the Mavericks look good and they look comfortable in the Carlisle-led ball movement renaissance. That's a fantastic sign.
Minutes restrictions and injury concerns already
Slightly concerning is that Deron Williams went down with a minor knee issue early in the third quarter. He returned to the game with a brace for about a minute before leaving again and being ruled doubtful for the fourth quarter. He did not return.
Matthews, who is working on a minutes restriction as well as Williams, played 26 minutes. It's obviously possible he could have played more if it wasn't a blowout, so we don't know exactly what his max number is right now. It'll be interesting to see if he plays on Thursday against Los Angeles. If I had to guess, I'd think he doesn't.