What did Denver do over the summer?
When current Mavs point guard Deron Williams was traded by his first team, the Jazz, back in 2011, it was a sign the franchise had moved on from a playoff team that had hit its ceiling and embraced a rebuild before they completely bottomed out. The Nuggets have gone down a similar path this offseason, although under very different circumstances.
Denver hoped to groom lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay into an eventual starter playing behind Ty Lawson. But Lawson's offseason issues led the team to trade him to the Rockets for a bag of beans.
The upside of the trade is that it immediately clears playing time for Mudiay, who has progressed faster in his first year than many expected. The former Dallas Prime Prep star is averaging 12.5 points and six assists on 33 percent shooting. The Nuggets are off to a 6-10 start though, and are a long shot to make the playoffs.
Williams, another Dallas area high school hoops star, will provide a good test for Mudiay. He's one of the few PGs with the size to matchup with the 6-5 rookie and has the kind of veteran moves to expose Mudiay's inexperience on the defensive end.
What stat will decide the game?
Just about the only thing the Nuggets do at an elite level as a team is crash the offensive boards, which seems like something you can say about Denver every year. They rank eighth as a team in offensive rebounds, in large part because of Kenneth Faried's 12.3 offensive rebounding percentage. But the team has actually had more second chance opportunities in losses this year.
The stat that really stands out in losses is the team's 26 percent three point shooting, down from 42 percent in wins. The Mavs need to keep guys like Danilo Gallinari, Joffrey Lauvergne and Gary Harris from heating up on the perimeter to put this game away. All of the "stretch" forwards on this team is what makes the Nuggets so hard to matchup with on the perimeter, especially for a team like the Mavs that doesn't have a lot of size on the wings. This could be a good game for Mavs rookie Justin Anderson to get some minutes because Gallinari could really abuse the three-guard lineups Rick Carlisle loves to use.
Who is due for a big night?
Last year against Denver, Dirk Nowitzki averaged 25 points, his best against any opponent, on 60 percent true shooting to go along with 9.0 rebounds. Those kind of numbers have become almost ordinary for him versus the Nuggets. In recent years, it's felt like anything can happen against this team, like a loss after a barrage of Nugget threes or even a Ray Felton game winner in double overtime. But big games from Dirk can be expected. After getting only eight shot attempts against San Antonio Wednesday, the Mavericks will want to get their star going again.
Chandler Parsons should play tonight after sitting out against the Spurs but he remains on minute restrictions that will limit him to around 20 minutes.
How to watch
The game starts at 7:30 pm CT. Catch it locally on Fox Sports Southwest or on NBA League Pass.