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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks tangle with the Magic

The Mavericks finish up their road trip against a team on the fringes of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (27-37) finish up an east coast road trip Friday evening against the playoff-hopeful Orlando Magic (30-36). Their previous matchup this year was in Dallas on December 10th, a game the Mavericks handily won 101-76. It was one of their final wins before a cruel stretch of losing basketball that prompted much of the unrest before the trade deadline in Dallas.

Now the Mavericks find themselves in another bout of losing ball, losing nine of their last eleven. It’s a mix of young players and role players alike being thrust into larger roles, combined with two trades that have forced the Mavericks to build chemistry on the fly. And with under 20 games left, the Mavericks may have sights on draft positioning where they could keep this summer’s first round pick if it lands inside the top five.

Here’s what’s worth paying attention to in tonight’s battle:

Lineup Musical Chairs

In those 11 games since the trade that sent Harrison Barnes to the Sacramento Kings, the Mavericks’ final move before the trade deadline, Rick Carlisle has opted to use seven different starting lineups. I need to repeat that. The Mavericks have played 11 games with their new roster, a roster that has 13 active players on any given night, and Richard Preston Carlisle has deployed SEVEN. DIFFERENT. STARTING. LINEUPS.

I applaud this level of creativity from Dallas’ resident wizard. No they aren’t entirely unique lineups, mostly trading out a player here or there. But to come up with that many combinations in that short a time is mind bending. Now what has that translated to? Nine losses. So MFFLs lurking the Twitter-sphere yelling about tanking certainly have this stat to stand on. And now that you mention it...

Do the Mavs want that pick?

If you somehow missed the draft action in Dallas, very quickly: the Mavericks have two trades that will tie up various draft picks over various years, this summer possibly being one of them. If they land in the top five of the draft order they keep their pick; if not, it goes to the Atlanta Hawks. Lottery selection determines the top four. At the writing of this the Mavericks are 7th in the lottery standings and have a 29.4 percent chance of landing in the top four. If they move to 6th in those standings their chances jump to 37.2 percent.

And as the Mavericks find themselves just two games “behind” the Memphis Grizzlies for that spot (while still playing them two more times)’s time to start talking about it. And not just as a funny hypothetical thing. A real concrete possibility that might be very important to the future of this franchise.

If you include the Sacramento Kings, who are drifting further from playoff reality, the Mavericks play 12 of their 18 games against teams in the playoff hunt. While it’s never fun to consider the idea of losing, the Mavericks may find themselves competitive on lottery night.

Dwight POWell

We’ve talked a lot about the bad here. But the best story in Dallas since the All-Star Break has to be Dwight Powell. As with many of the role players on the roster, Powell has been given more minutes and more responsibility on the new roster, and DP has exploded in his chance to shine.

In the seven games since the break Powell is averaging 18 points, seven rebounds, over three assists, while shooting 67-percent from the floor and 58-percent from three. He’s showing the best of his skill-set while tacking on a surprising three point stroke that has never been present. The outside shot is probably a mirage, but it’s been fun to watch easily the best stretch of his career.

More than anything, Powell is reminding fans (and the front office) that he’s a valuable piece of this team. He’s also one of the best long-term investment and development stories in Dallas in a long time.

How to Watch

Tip off is set for 6 CT, and can be watched on FSSW or NBA League Pass.