The Dallas Mavericks wrap up preseason on Friday night, playing host the Detroit Pistons, in what will be the teams lone prep game inside the U.S. The game’s on Bally Sports at 7pm local time. The team has been on an international tour of sorts, facing the Minnesota Timberwolves twice in Abu Dhabi before heading to Spain to face Luka Doncic’s former team Real Madrid.
Not that the results technically matter, but the Mavericks have yet to notch a victory in play. Grabbing a win prior to the start of the season would be a nice jumping off point for a team with several new pieces working in rotation. This will be our final look to see where things stand, and this is what we’ll be watching for.
Travel recovery and health
The team spent a while overseas, and the historical data of teams that travel internationally ahead of the season indicates the Mavericks could have a slow start to the season. Layer on top of that a cast of role players joining the team this year, or trying to regain footing on the role, and we may all need to practice patience.
Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are both battling was injuries already. Doncic has been banged up all the way back to the FIBA World Cup — whether or not the Mavericks are being cautious doesn’t really matter. The team isn’t fresh.
Luka will be out Friday, and it’s possible Kyrie sits as well. So it will be on the rest of the starters and role players to find rhythm back in the states on their own. Finding shots and some chemistry as a defensive unit would go a long way in catching stride once the stars return.
Exum finding a role
With Doncic and Irving out, it would be easy to keep eyes on second year guard Jaden Hardy. Because the health of Doncic and Irving are never certain, it would not be surprising if the team looks to Hardy to be the scoring difference maker in their absence.
But it’s the play of Dante Exum that will be especially interesting to watch early this season, even more so Friday. In the previous three preseason games (he started against Real Madrid) Exum has averaged 7.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 5.6 assists. There’s been talk that he found his shot while playing overseas for the last two years. The volume has been extremely low so far, but he has hit three of his four attempts from three.
While Hardy might bring pure scoring punch, Exum may prove a nice option to run the team for stretches as a distributor and defender. Keep eyes on him in the absence of the starting guards Friday.
The Mavericks need Dereck Lively to be a contributor, full stop. That doesn’t mean a full time starter (though that would be great), that doesn’t mean a defensive player of the year candidate (though that’s the ideal), but they need him to provide a presence around the rim for this team to raise their ceiling. Lively has had moments of positive play the last couple weeks, and those will be building blocks.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper will need time to adjust — to the space, to the tempo, to the schemes Jason Kidd utilizes — for him to be the impact player many see him being. It will be a roller coaster ride for both rookies, so it’s important to buckle up and take the good with the bad. Seeing bright spots Friday could go a long way in kicking off their NBA careers.
How to watch
The final Mavericks preseason game tips off at the American Airlines Center at 7 PM CT, and can be watched on Bally Sports.