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The Spurs got better, which is a scary thought for the Mavericks

The first of our Southwest Division team previews. We talk about the new-look Spurs, who will never go away.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs have a flair for the dramatic when they really shouldn't. Just when throwing dirt into the grave seemed apropos, the Spurs go about their business while laughing maniacally at us all.

This past summer was the first time San Antonio jumped head first into the free agency pool, and they made the biggest splash by signing the most coveted player on the market in big man LaMarcus Aldridge. The Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs rivalry is about to begin a new chapter, and it centers around the Dallas native Aldridge, who spurned the Mavericks and four other teams to join forces with Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich. Oh, and that Tim Duncan guy is still there, too.

Here's what you need to know about the Spurs this season.

Key Dates

If you're anxious to see any Mavericks-Spurs games, you'll have to be patient. Dallas won't get a shot at the new-look Spurs until Nov. 25 in San Antonio, and won't play each other again until 2016. The Mavs are in San Antonio on Jan. 17, and then Feb. 5 is the first time Aldridge will suit up in Dallas as a Spur. Not a bad way to get ready for Super Bowl weekend.

Dallas closes the regular season at home against the Spurs on April 13, which may, or may not, have any sort of playoff implications.

How has San Antonio changed over the summer?

LaMarcus Aldridge. That's how the Spurs changed. Locking up the league's best free agent to be the heir apparent to Tim Duncan forced the Spurs to make some tough personnel decisions, while also hitting the jackpot on others.

Before doing anything else in July, San Antonio also signed former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to a max contract. (That was probably to prevent Mark Cuban from getting Leonard to sign an offer sheet in a nightclub.) And just when you thought the Spurs were going to lose sharpshooter Danny Green, the Spurs signed Green to a $45-million deal over four years.

Winning the Aldridge sweepstakes came at a cost, though. The Spurs shipped beloved center Tiago Splitter to the Atlanta Hawks for a second-round pick, and also let reserve point guard Cory Joseph find a new home in Toronto. While getting Aldridge was essential to San Antonio's plan for world domination, the Spurs had to lose their only center and a good reserve guard who played well when Patty Mills was hurt last season.

Forget all of that. The Spurs signed David West to the minimum, while getting Duncan to take ANOTHER pay cut and resigned Manu Ginobili to a one-year deal worth $2.8 million. Oh, and the Spurs also lost Marco Belinelli, but who cares? They shipped a 2016 second-round pick to Sacramento for Ray McCallum. And, hey, Kyle Anderson is entering his second season with the Spurs. He had a great Summer League stint under coach Becky Hammon.

This Spurs team is unfair, man.

What is the Mavericks' biggest challenge against the Spurs?

Where do we begin? The No. 1 reason why Dallas wanted Aldridge was to move Dirk Nowitzki to the bench. Dirk is still a starter at age 37, and Aldridge has averaged 23.4 points per game against Dallas in the last three years. Even if the Mavericks put Zaza Pachulia on Aldridge, Dirk would still have to deal with Duncan, and that's not any better.

The point guard matchup is another question mark for Dallas, at least for now. Tony Parker is still in his prime and is coming off a strong showing during the Eurobasket championships this summer. Deron Williams better be ready to move a lot during San Antonio's pick and rolls with Parker and Duncan/Aldridge.

The lack of depth on the Mavs' side is also concerning. San Antonio will have depth forever until the end of time. Who on Dallas' bench will be able to stop the bleeding that the Spurs will cause? We could be seeing a lot more Justin Anderson against the Spurs based on his defense and 3-point shooting, alone.

What is San Antonio's biggest challenge against the Mavericks?

The word 'weakness' isn't in the Spurs' vocabulary often, especially against the Mavericks. But the one area Dallas can attack San Antonio at is 3-point shooting.

San Antonio was 23rd in the league last season in opponent 3-point percentage, allowing 36 percent of made threes. The Mavericks weren't any better, allowing 36.4 percent from behind the long line, but this is why Dallas signed Wesley Matthews: to improve in both backcourt perimeter shooting and perimeter defense.

How much Matthews can improve Dallas coming off the torn Achilles is still to be determined, but the odds are favorable that he can be slightly better than Monta Ellis in both of those departments.

Which Mavs-Spurs game will be the craziest?

If Dallas is in playoff contention late, then the regular season finale on April 13 will be the one to watch. The Spurs may rest everyone for this game, unless they're fighting for a top-two seed with Golden State.

From a Mavericks perspective, this could be a must-win for Dallas if the playoffs are a legit possibility. Plus, it's a home game for the Mavs. What more could you ask for?

How far can the Spurs go?

They're the second best team in the Western Conference right now. A Western Conference Finals matchup between San Antonio and Golden State would probably set the basketball world ablaze. This great franchise just got better, and it's almost unfair to the rest of the NBA. If the Mavericks can get at least one win against the Spurs, that will be an accomplishment.