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NBA schedule release: if the Mavericks can survive a tough opening stretch, they could be playoff bound

With the new NBA schedule finally being released, we take a look at some of the more intriguing games and trends for the Mavs.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

For me, this is one of the most exciting times of the year as a Dallas Mavericks fan. With the NBA releasing its schedule for the 2017-2018 season, I finally get to start shaping my calendar, from mid-October to at least early April, around Mavs basketball, whether it’s going to games in person or watching on TV.

Though every team’s schedule is designed to be similar, no schedule is the same. There are always different patterns of games in the forms of home stands, road trips, back-to-backs, and nationally televised games. Take a look at the official schedule, then let’s take a deeper dive into the Mavericks’ upcoming season.

Getting the season started

The Mavs will tip things off at home against the Atlanta Hawks on October 18th. Although the matchup itself may not excite many, this is the first season that Dallas will open the season at AAC since October 30th, 2013 when Monta Ellis made his Mavs’ debut in a win against — wait for it — the Atlanta Hawks. Let’s all hope that Dennis Smith Jr. can have a debut similar to Monta’s from that night (32 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds in 37 minutes).

DSJ’s debut, along with the possibility that this could be Dirk Nowitzki’s last home opener, are both excellent reasons why you should tune in.

A trend that I really like is that the NBA keeps starting seasons earlier and earlier. No more waiting for Halloween -- in fact, maybe they can keep tweaking this until we just NBA action year-round.

The second game of the season is also at home for the Mavs, and it’s against De’Aaron Fox and the Sacramento Kings. Fans that were invested in this year’s NBA Draft will get an early treat seeing Fox (5th overall pick) and Smith Jr. (9th overall pick) go at each other.

The Mavs open their road schedule at their I-45 rivals, the Houston Rockets. After starting out against Dennis Schroeder and De’Aaron Fox, Smith Jr. will quickly get a taste of the league’s elite at the point guard position, as the Rockets acquired 9-time All-Star, Chris Paul, in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers this summer.

NBA: Summer League-Boston Celtics at Dallas Mavericks
After an impressive showing in the Las Vegas Summer League, Dennis Smith Jr. will be tested early by the NBA’s gauntlet of elite point guards.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nationally televised games

As expected, the Mavs’ 33-win season in 2016-17 didn’t exactly help their chances of being nationally televised this year. They play in 6 nationally televised games this year to go along with 5 appearances on NBA TV. As the season develops, there’s always a small chance that some of the big stations like ESPN and TNT could give the Mavs a little more spotlight if they start to show some real promise. I wouldn’t hold my breath there though, because in my mind, it seems like if the big stations can ignore the Mavs, they will do so by all means necessary. Here’s what the tv schedule looks like:

• at Los Angeles Clippers (Nov. 1 / ESPN)

• at San Antonio Spurs (Nov. 27 / NBA TV)

• vs San Antonio (Dec. 12 / ESPN)

• at Golden State Warriors (Dec. 14 / TNT)

• vs Houston Rockets (Jan. 24 / ESPN)

• at Phoenix Suns (Jan. 31 / ESPN)

• at L.A. Clippers (Feb. 5 / NBA TV)

• at Houston (Feb. 11 / NBA TV)

• at Los Angeles Lakers (Feb. 23 / ESPN)

• at Cleveland Cavaliers (Apr. 1 / NBA TV)

• at Philadelphia 76ers (Apr. 8 / NBA TV)

Resting players a thing of the past?

As mentioned in our initial NBA schedule release piece, there will be no more "4 games in 5 nights" stretches, which is awesome for a couple of reasons. First, this means players should be more rested throughout the duration of an 82-game season. This is espescially good for older players like Dirk, because he’s only got this season and maybe next season before calling it quits. So the more we get to see him on the court, the better.

Second, this move by the NBA should lead to teams cutting back on "resting" players as much as they have been lately. A hot topic last season was how it’s unfair to fans spend their hard-earned money on tickets, then a star player sits out for rest — but coaches are just doing what’s best for their teams by keeping players fresh for the playoffs. Spacing out games and cutting back on back-to-backs is a good step in the right direction to solve this issue.

And speaking of back-to-backs, the Mavs have 15 of them this season, which is the same amount they had last year.

Toughest stretch of the schedule

After looking at the schedule multiple times, it’s pretty clear to me that we’ll know by the end of December if the Mavs will be competing for a playoff spot or heading back to the lottery. Here are the teams Dallas will play during the months of November and December: Clippers (2x), Pelicans (2x), T-Wolves (2x), Wizards, Cavs, Thunder (3x), Spurs (4x), Celtics (2x), Raptors and Warriors.

Whew — and that stretch will start less than 2 weeks into the season. The Mavs will be thrown into the fire early and often, especially in Smith Jr.’s case. He’ll see the likes of Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Mike Conley, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas and Russell Westbrook right off the bat.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies
Dirk and the rest of the Mavs veterans will be key to keeping a lot pressure off of Smith Jr. this season as he’s learning the ropes of Rick Carlisle’s offense.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Final thoughts

It won’t be easy, but if the Mavs can somehow go into January with a record at or above .500, I think they’ll have an excellent shot at grabbing a playoff spot in April. How awesome would that be to make the playoffs after pulling off a complete rebuild in 12 months?

But regardless of the Mavs win total this season, it figures to be a fun one just like last year. Training camp, pre-season and opening night are all right around the corner. Are you ready?