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What to watch for during the Mavericks 2020 preseason

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With an unprecedented season on the way, here’s what we’re keeping an eye on during the abbreviated preseason.

LA Clippers v Dallas Mavericks - Game Six Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Not sure how I feel about the NBA Draft being yesterday and Mavericks preseason starting tomorrow. That’s what happened, right? That’s at least what it feels like.

The Mavericks preseason begins Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks, one of only three preseason games for Dallas. With the shortened training camp and even shorter preseason, that means there isn’t much wiggle room for NBA teams trying to incorporate new teams or new ideas.

So let’s get right to the things we’re keeping an eye on over these next three games.

How ready are the rookies going to be?

It seems absolutely wild that Josh Green, Tyrell Terry and Tyler Bey are going to be playing NBA basketball less than a month after being drafted. A key thing to watch all season will how do the rookies across the league fair with less preparation time than ever before and the Mavericks are no exception.

How are these guys gonna look? How much will they play? Where do they fit into the rotation? It’ll be impossible to answer these questions during the preseason, but we can maybe get a better idea. Rick Carlisle is known for having a short leash with rookies, especially when he has a winning team (outside of the obvious like Luka Doncic), but with how crazy this season could be, he might not have a choice. A lot of rookies are going to get thrown into the deep end very quickly and they’ll have not choice but to try and swim through it all.

I almost expect these three to play a lot of minutes this preseason as Carlisle maximizes the time he has available to teach and ease these rookies in to NBA basketball.

Any glimpses at a starting lineup or rotation

The preseason is definitely not the place to make any grand judgements about Carlisle’s lineups, but maybe we can at least uncover some hints on where he’s leaning.

You figure the locked-in starters are Luka Doncic, Josh Richardson, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith. That just leaves one spot open for a big, which raises a handful of questions:

  • Does this mean the Mavericks are embracing the one-big lineup that they used after Dwight Powell got hurt with Kristaps Porzingis?
  • Does Carlisle actually throw a curveball and go back to a two-big starting lineup? If so, which of the trio of Richardson, Hardaway and Finney-Smith hit the bench?
  • OK, the Mavericks roll with one big. Who is it while Porzingis rehabs? Dwight Powell has reportedly been running with the starters in training camp, so he would be the expected favorite as of right now.

Past the starting lineup, it’ll be interesting if we can see any types of trends about the rotation. It’s the preseason and it’s Carlisle so we might get nothing, but there’s also only three preseason games and a short training camp. There’s not much time to keep things in the dark.

Is James Johnson going to be a part of this thing?

James Johnson is tough to predict coming into this season. He finished last season, pre-bubble, strong with the Timberwolves, showcasing his well-rounded game and even playing some backup five.

Despite that, he hasn’t played a ton of games the last two seasons and he fell out of favor in Miami before being shipped to Minnesota last season. It’s hard to tell how much he has left in tank and I’ve personally seen observations from smart basketball people on both sides — those that think he can still play and be a major role player and those that think he’ll just be salary cap fodder for a trade.

I can’t decide which side I lean on. Who knows how much time any of the veterans are going to get during preseason, but seeing what they do with Johnson will be of interest to me. The range of outcomes feels all over the place.

Any signs of life from the new Mavericks defense

Rick Carlisle has preached defense all through training camp so far, so much so it makes you wonder if they’ve left any time for the offense — that’s how much it’s been a talking point the last week or so.

With the new wing acquisitions in Richardson, Johnson, Green and Bey, it’ll be fun to see if we can get a hint of what the new Mavericks defense is capable of. They’ll play the Bucks twice and the Timberwolves once, both capable offensive teams. Again, it’s just the preseason, but it’ll be fun to see what the new physical defensive players bring to the Mavericks look and vibe.