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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks host the Grizzlies

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The Mavericks face a playoff test, and some old friends, when the Grizzlies come to town tonight.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the first loss for the Dallas Mavericks that included Nerlens Noel, Dirk and the boys are looking to get back to their winning ways against their old buddy Chandler Parsons and the Memphis Grizzlies tonight.

For where the Mavs are at this time of year, this game is actually quite important. More important than most regular season games. If Dallas is going to make a run at the playoffs and potentially scare someone once they get there, these are the types of teams they’re going to have to start beating.

In a lot of ways, the Grizzlies are the Western Conference version of the Hawks; Not particularly impressive, but seemingly guaranteed a playoff spot. If Dallas falls again, they’ll have to ask themselves if fighting for the playoffs is really worth it.

Dirk the Great / Dirk the Center

Dirk Nowitzki broke the game of basketball, and he did it by being a 7 footer with the shooting range of a wing. He essentially invented the position of "stretch 4" and played it perfectly his entire career.

Now, with seemingly every team having a stretch 4 on their roster, he’s less of a unicorn. In fact, Dirk isn’t even the best stretch 4 on the Mavs roster anymore, he lost that spot to 24 year old Harrison Barnes.

That means Dirk now has to play Center, and he’s actually good at it (on the offensive end)! Where he runs into problems is when the opposing team runs a heavy portion of their offense through their Center position, forcing Dirk to try and defend players that are at least 50 pounds heavier.

Enter Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. They will spend the better part of tonight’s game going right at Dirk when he is on the floor (and away from Noel, for good reason). How well he, and Rick Carlisle, deals with that could be the difference.

Time to gloat

There is a time to gloat in the NBA and for Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson, that time may just be tonight.

This offseason, they decided to pay less for Harrison Barnes than they would’ve had to pay Chandler Parsons to keep him in Dallas. Up until this very moment, I might’ve argued that it was too early to make any sort of call on how that worked out. However, let’s look at some stats:

Per 36 Minutes:

Parsons: 11.3 pts, 4.3 reb, 2.9 ast, 1.1 steal, 1.2 TO, .342% FG
Barnes: 20.3 pts, 5.2 reb, 1.5, 0.9 steal, 1.3 TO, .476% FG

That is total destruction. That is why Barnes’ PER is above-average (17.4) this season while Parsons’ is, well, embarrassing (7.8).

When these two are on the court at the same time tonight, Mavs fans should pay attention (and enjoy).

A Point Guard league

One reason why the Mavs went hard after Mike Conley Jr. in free agency this offseason is because the NBA is quickly becoming known as "a Point Guard league". The position of Point Guard is becoming roughly as valuable as an NFL Quarterback. Good luck trying to build a successful franchise without a reliable Point Guard to run your offense and slow down the other superstar PGs on the other end of the court.

Another reason why they tried to sign Conley? He’s really, really, really good. His PER (22.4) is just a smidge below John Wall (22.7), who at least occasionally gets into the MVP conversation behind James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

In the short time that he’s been the Mavs’ starter, we’ve already seen Yogi Ferrell able to step up his game and go toe-to-toe with some of the league’s best PGs (most notably Damian Lillard and his 22.6 PER). Dallas will need him to outplay, or at least match, Mike Conley Jr. tonight if they’re going to have a shot at leaving the court as winners.

How to watch

Tonight’s game tips off at 7:30pm Central on Fox Sports Southwest. Outside of the Dallas and Memphis areas, you can catch the game on NBA League Pass.