For a team like the Mavericks, the preseason isn’t all that interesting except for the diehards. Dallas is a well-established team, with veterans flocking every major lineup spot with few young players that figure to be major contributors. There’s also the fact that while the Mavericks did lose a major piece in Jalen Brunson, the roster overall stayed pretty static after the Mavericks exciting Western Conference Finals run earlier in the year.
Still though, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to watch for. Coach Jason Kidd might have already revealed his starting lineup, but there are still some questions about the Mavericks rotation that need to be answered, and while Dallas is likely to play things pretty close to the chest during the preseason, there’s some potential to get closer to some answers to those questions.
The Mavericks play three games this preseason, starting with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night. Here’s what we’re watching for.
Can Josh Green start to live up to the hype?
The Mavericks portion of the internet has been ablaze with Josh Green hype, as the third year forward has made some splashy plays during the Mavericks televised practice and the Fan Jam practice at the American Airlines Center over the weekend.
To fan those flames even more, he’s getting a lot of praise from his coaches, including Jared Dudley.
“His aggressiveness is night and day,” Dudley told The Dallas Morning News’ Callie Caplan after the Fan Jam event. “He’s taking the blow and throwing the blow offensively to be able to get to the basket. You’ll see a huge jump from Josh Green.”
This basically added a box of matches to the raging Green fire from the Mavericks fandom. It’s easy to get carried away watching practice clips (and why not, it’s the preseason! It’s the time for eternal optimism), there’s no doubt that Green developing into a reliable, every night rotation player would be a huge boon to the Mavericks championship chances. Dallas is capped out and without much trade ammo as they’re still in the shadow of the Kristaps Porzingis trade, so their avenues for improvement are slim. Green popping is usually how contenders with big cap sheets are able to sustain — hitting on those late first rounders is such a valuable thing.
Green getting a shot at rotation minutes is inevitable, given the lack of wings on the Mavericks roster, but how he gets it is the question, which maybe the preseason can answer. The Mavericks are sorely lacking at point guard after Brunon’s departure, and Green has shown a knack for some impressive passing in the past. Will the Mavericks maybe use Green as a backup point forward type? Or will they just slot him into the traditional 3-and-D role on the wing. Preseason is the time for experimentation, so it’ll be exciting to see if the Mavericks coaching staff allow Green to run some offense.
Slowly but surely Green has shown improvement — he played more games, averaged more minutes, scored more points, and shot better from two and from three in his sophomore season compared to his rookie season. But the improvements were small and Green still wasn’t a regular rotation player and was mostly a ghost in the playoffs outside of a really fun Game 3 against the Jazz in the first round. Green has to make the leap from “occasional fun energy spark” to “reliable wing” and this preseason could be our first chance to see some of that growth.
What does Jaden Hardy look like with NBA spacing?
Jaden Hardy was a really fun move from a Mavericks team that typically hasn’t valued the draft much in the last 20 years. Dallas traded into the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft and selected Hardy, once a highly-valued potential top-10 pick that cooled off after a bad season with the G-League Ignite.
During Summer League, Hardy had a really promising first game, and then a bunch of stinkers. The thing about Summer League is that it doesn’t really matter (Brunson had an awful Summer League his rookie year), and this will be the first time Hardy can operate with honest-to-goodness NBA spacing.
Hardy has good scoring talent, a smooth jumper and a decent enough handle to get to his spots, but the cramped spacing and awkward rotations during the Summer League stint didn’t really help. Hardy isn’t a pure point guard, yet that was his role since no one else on the Mavericks Summer League roster could really do it. In the preseason, Hardy should get the benefit of playing with some actual NBA veterans, with Jason Kidd’s full coaching staff. Hardy can finally play a bit more off-ball, which is likely where he’ll be best if he can succeed in the NBA. It’s doubtful we’ll see much of Hardy and Luka Doncic together, but maybe Hardy and Spencer Dinwiddie? Hopefully we can see Hardy play real minutes next to a bonafide NBA point guard, as that should accentuate his game much better than whatever you want to call the Mavericks Summer League roster did.
Side note: I want to put money on an NBA announcer at one point this season saying “Hardy might be a rookie, but he’s got the tools of a professional scorer.”
Do we get any hint at the bench lineups and rotation?
With no mystery to be found in the starting lineup — Kidd announced it already and it’s not hard to guess how a lineup featuring Luka Doncic, another ball handler, two wing shooters, and a rim-running big will play — seeing how Kidd and the coaching staff dole out bench minutes is still something of an unknown.
Unfortunately, we’re not likely to get much of an answer during the preseason, as players won’t play all three games and end of the rotation/training camp invites will get a lot of minutes. It’s hard to see how your bench will shake out when your bench has to start games so your star player can rest, you know?
Even then, there could be some glimpses. The Mavericks will likely use at least one of the three preseason games as a dress rehearsal, which could give us some clues. For example, how does Tim Hardaway Jr. fit in after missing most of last season? Christian Wood is coming off the bench, so what does that look like? Who will get backup point guard minutes when Doncic and Dinwiddie are both on the bench? With the additions of JaVale McGee and Wood, will Dwight Powell get squeezed out of the rotation? Will Green earn legitimate backup wing minutes to spell the heavy burden of Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock? All questions that need answering that maybe we can find something from this preseason slate.