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Mavericks vs. Spurs Preview: 3 things to watch as the Mavericks open the season against Wembanyama

Dallas starts the season against the much-hyped rookie

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It feels like ages since the Dallas Mavericks last played real basketball, and that’s certainly true — since the Mavericks missed postseason play completely, Dallas endured its longest offseason since after Doncic’s rookie year. Thankfully, Mavericks basketball is back against Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night at 8:30 pm on ESPN.

The Mavericks will finally get to show off their new-look roster, although Luka Doncic enters the game questionable to play with a calf injury. The Spurs will try to move forward past the last few tanking seasons, as Wembanyama might be a cheat code to get them back into relevancy. It should be a fun matchup of two teams looking to reenter the playoff picture.

How will the Mavericks new size matchup with Wembanyama?

Much of the Mavericks’ troubles post-Kyrie Irving trade last season was due to the team’s almost laughable lack of size. Reggie Bullock was the starting power forward for most of the second half, with Maxi Kleber having lost a step while recovering from in-season hamstring surgery. It was a mess, and the Mavericks were walloped in the paint and on the boards to close out last season.

Dallas thankfully addressed that frontcourt head-on: Grant Williams, Dereck Lively, Richaun Holmes, and even Derrick Jones Jr. represent the frontcourt reinforcements. Those new players will be put to the test against the Spurs giant front line, headlined by 7’4 freakazoid Victor Wembanyama. Wembanyama is one of the most-hyped rookies in years, comparable to both Doncic and even LeBron James when they first entered the league. Wembanyama’s monstrous size and length might make him a pristine NBA defender from day one, and the Mavericks will have their hands full trying to score in the paint.

The Spurs plan to start Wembanyama at the four next to another big, in this case likely 6’11 Zach Collins. Not only that, but the rest of the Spurs perimeter players in the lineup are big as well – the shortest players in the Spurs theoretical starting lineup are Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson at 6’5, and both are athletic with good wingspans. This will be a good test for the Mavericks new look big man rotation.

How does Luka look?

Doncic has been nursing several injuries during preseason, the most recent being a calf strain suffered just before the team’s preseason game against Real Madrid. That was over 10 days ago at this point, and the Mavericks have Doncic listed as questionable entering tonight’s matchup.

If Doncic plays, will he be ready to go? Doncic didn’t play much in the preseason due to the injury and while he had a good summer of getting into better shape, it’ll be interesting to see how he looks if he does play. Even with Irving on the roster, the Mavericks season will go nowhere if Doncic doesn’t look like himself.

What does the rotation look like?

Jason Kidd used the preseason to experiment, starting both his first round rookies Lively and Olivier-Maxence Prosper the first two games, before shifting to some other lineups after both Irving and Doncic sat out games due to injury. Because of this mixing and matching, there isn’t a good feel for what the starting lineup or rotation will look like.

Derrick Jones Jr. started the final two preseason games and looked good, with Josh Green starting the final preseason game against Detroit. If Doncic is back, that leaves one perimeter spot up for grabs and it’ll be interesting to see where Kidd goes. There are merits to both Jones and Green in the starting lineup.

Past that, it’s a lock Williams will start at the four and Lively has seemingly won the starting center job. But what does the bench look like? Tim Hardaway Jr., Seth Curry, Jaden Hardy, Dante Exum, Dwight Powell, and Maxi Kleber all likely expect to be major rotation players, but Dallas simply doesn’t have enough minutes for everyone. Someone is going to get squeezed, and while that’s ultimately a good problem to have, we’ll know a little more about how Kidd views this roster and what he wants to get out of it after we see them in action against the Spurs.

How to Watch

The game should start around 8:30 p.m. CST on ESPN.