The Dallas Mavericks travel to Phillips Arena to take on the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday, marking the first game of the 2021-22 Mavericks season. It will also be Atlanta’s first game of the season, as they’re still fresh off a surprising playoff campaign last season. The Mavericks’ roster isn’t strikingly different from what they had last season, but the team as a whole has an entirely new coaching identity. Opening night is just a single game, but it can set the tone for what fans should expect.
Dallas Mavericks: Three Things to Monitor on Opening Night
A Twist to the Starting Five
Luka Doncic will start at point guard and is likely to lead the Mavericks in a variety of statistical categories. That’s no surprise. Kristaps Porzingis will also start, as he should, even though there were questions about his play last season. When Porzingis is hot he’ll drain three from 30+ feet away and hit high-flying dunks. Lastly, the steady Dorian Finney-Smith will remain a starter due to his “three-and-d” capabilities.
The other starters will be Tim Hardaway Jr. at the two and Dwight Powell at the five. Hardaway Jr. has always been a stud for the Mavericks, but last season he primarily came off the bench. He was an excellent spark plug, but the truth is that he’s far too talented to not start. The flamethrower of a shooter has an excellent rapport with Doncic, and the duo give the Mavericks their best backcourt possible. Although Porzingis is widely expected to be the Mavericks’ second-leading scorer, it wouldn’t come as a major surprise if Hardaway Jr. contends for that title as well.
Porzingis starting at the five has always been a debate amongst Mavericks faithful. If preseason was any indication, it looks as if head coach Jason Kidd is content with Porzingis being a stretch four. This leaves the center position to none other but Powell. Sure, he has his limitations, but Powell is arguably the Mavericks’ hardest-working player. He’s coming into his own defensively as well, which adds to his skill set of being an excellent pick-and-roll threat. He was hot from deep in the preseason too, but then again that’s not something Dallas should rely upon.
Hardaway Jr. and Powell were in and out of starting fives last season, but this line-up is likely to be the most used by Dallas.
The Bench Mob
Dallas has always had solid benches, from the Dirk Nowitzki era to the Doncic era. This year will be no different. The usuals from last season, such as Jalen Brunson, Maxi Kleber, and Willie Cauley-Stein will all play plenty of minutes. Boban Marjanovic is also a great throw-in based on the match-up.
Look for Reggie Bullock to make a name for himself quite early. He was one of the top “three-and-d” specialists in the entire NBA last season for the New York Knicks, and he’ll be looking to start off his Mavericks career with a bang. Bullock will likely get the most minutes off the bench, as he can play both the two and the three.
Josh Green came into his own during the preseason as well. He still has plenty of development to do, but his athleticism was never under question.
Sterling Brown was another solid addition who can come in and drain threes with the open looks he’ll have in this offense.
Jason Kidd Leads the Dallas Mavericks
It’s far too early to judge the kind of impact that Kidd will have in Dallas. His tenures with the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets were less than ideal, but he rejuvenated his coaching career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Training camp and the preseason show that Kidd and his group are having fun. If the players are happy then they’re likely to play better. With that being said, Kidd will have to keep them happy while also executing a variety of in-game coaching decisions such as play calls, rotations, and match-ups. Atlanta has a fiery offense and a stout defense, so he’ll have a tall task in his first game.
Slowing down Trae Young, allowing Doncic to continue his stellar free-flowing basketball, and getting the best out of Porzingis will be tasks watched under a microscope.
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