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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks host the Washington Wizards


NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, finally, FINALLY our long wait is over. Basketball is here, real actual basketball that counts towards the standings as the Dallas Mavericks begin the long path towards the NBA playoffs.

The Mavericks open against the Washington Wizards at home in Dallas. Here’s what to watch for or think about leading up to game time.

How much will the Mavericks win by?

Yeah, this feels like tempting fate. The Wizards are going to be bad this season and everyone knows that. But it’s one thing to understand it and something else entirely to see it in action. Behold their starting line up:

Rui Hachimura, former Gonzaga player, was the eighth overall pick in the most recent NBA draft. His game is often described as being similar to Carmelo Anthony. For many NBA teams, he wasn’t even on their first round board. Thomas Bryant and Isaac Bonga are former second round picks by the Los Angeles Lakers sent over in a salary cap dump; neither would have ever seen the NBA in significant minutes, let alone start, on any other team. Ish Smith is an undrafted journeyman, a tough player but arguably not a NBA player.

And then All-Star player Bradley Beal. At least they have that going for them?

If the Mavericks don’t win this game then Dallas has much more serious problems than we’ve considered to date.

Luka Doncic’s turnovers

It’s probably nothing, but Luka averaged 5.3 turnovers in four preseason games whereas he averaged 3.4 per game all last season. Though, that small sample is boosted by the game against the Clippers where Doncic had nine turnovers and many of those were flat-out bad calls by the referees.

It’s probably nothing, but Dallas coach Rick Carlisle values ball control a great deal. If the Mavericks up their pace relative to recent seasons, they are going to turn the ball over more. How those two conflicting facts interact is worth watching over the long run. As Chuck Cooperstein said to me yesterday, the turnovers may really only matter if Dallas can’t shoot or defend. If they’re hitting shots, that papers over a number of problems.

Team three point shooting

The oft-repeated stat from 2018-19 was that Dallas shot the fourth most threes in the league with the fourth worst percentage. The preseason saw similar numbers: third most in attempts, bottom third in percentage. Again, it’s a small sample from pre-season and all while a volume shooter like Porzingis could not find his touch from distance.

But it’s a stat to keep an eye on. The Mavericks might be able to win by sheer volume some nights even if a ton aren’t going down. But if they hope to make a postseason case, they’re going to have to shoot the ball better as a team.

How to watch

The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.