The Dallas Mavericks open the season at 6 p.m. Wednesday on the road against the Indiana Pacers.
The Mavericks are coming off a 42-40 season and basically, in the off-season, replaced Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia in their starting lineup with Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. While the Parsons/Barnes exchange might be described as a wash, Bogut is a much better rim protector than Pachulia.
Here are five questions facing the Mavericks this season:
How much gas does Dirk Nowitzki have left in the tank?
Nowitzki has reached the ripe old age of 38, and Father Time admittedly is knocking on his door. The Mavericks really don’t want Nowitzki to carry the offensive load, and neither does he. With that, the Mavericks will try and keep his minutes in the 25-29 minutes per game range. Still, it will be interesting to see if the grizzled veteran — Nowitzki is entering his 19th NBA season — can manage those minutes to the point where he can continue to be an effective scorer who can essentially draw a double-team or two from time to time. Nowitzki is a fierce competitor. And he was the oldest player in the NBA to lead his team in scoring last year when he averaged 18.3 points.
What will the Mavericks get from Harrison Barnes?
The 6-foot-8 Barnes left the Golden State Warriors via free agency to sign a four-year, $94 million contract with the Mavericks. In the backdrop of all that pressure to validate that huge contract, the 24-year-old small forward will be given every chance to become the primary go-to player. At the very least, Barnes will be asked to do lots more than he did with the Warriors when he played alongside three players who made last year’s All-Star team. Barnes is a terrific defender. No one questions that. He needs to show that he can be more than just a bit player on offense.
Can Andrew Bogut become another Tyson Chandler?
Fans of the Mavericks know all too well the protection inside the paint Dallas received from center Tyson Chandler during their 2011 championship run. Whatever defensive blunders made on the perimeter, Chandler was there to clean them up. That’s precisely what the Mavericks are anticipating from Andrew Bogut. The 7-footer led the NBA in blocks in 2011 and was 13th last season with 1.63 per game. The fact that Bogut only played 20.7 minutes per game last season — and also averaged seven rebounds per outing — speaks highly of his production.
What’s next for second-year man Justin Anderson?
Finally, after letting the game come to him instead of always trying to force the issue, Justin Anderson’s rookie season ended with a bang. Once the 6-foot-6 shooting guard slowed down and was inserted into the starting lineup last year, the Mavericks went 7-2 and earned the No. 6 playoff seed in the Western Conference. Anderson used his energetic style of play to jump-start a team headed for the NBA lottery. Coach Rick Carlisle said Anderson will be in the rotation this season. With an improved jump shot, Anderson is poised to offer the hustle plays they got from Jae Crowder before he was traded to Boston in 2014.
Will the Mavericks get out of the first round?
The last time the Mavericks reached the second round of the playoffs, players such as Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson were on the roster. That was in 2011, when the Mavericks won their lone NBA title. What has unraveled since has been four first-round playoff eliminations in 2012, ’14, 15 and ’16, and a 41-41 season in 2013 when they missed the playoffs. The Mavericks have had a revolving door of players since 2011. It remains to be seen if this year will be any different.
Mavericks at Pacers
6 p.m. Wednesday, FSSW