Basketball is upon us (finally!). The league wide NBA schedule was released earlier this week, and the Dallas Mavericks clearly opened some eyes with their Western Conference Finals run last season. The NBA gifted the Mavericks 30 nationally televised games this year, spanning across ESPN (10), NBA TV (9), TNT (7) and ABC (4). Many of these are marquee matchups, so let’s dive into the top 10 games on the Mavericks schedule this year.
1) October 19th – Opening Night @ Phoenix Suns
The Mavericks open the season in Phoenix, the site of the Game 7 blowout where the Mavericks torched the Suns by 33 en route to the Western Conference Finals. Phoenix returns with nearly the same roster, while former Sun JaVale McGee returns to the Footprint Center as a member of the Mavericks. The opportunity for another Luka Dončić/Devin Booker meme is ripe, and the growing rivalry between these two teams should make for an intriguing opening night game.
2) December 25th – Christmas Day vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The last time the Mavericks hosted a Christmas Day game was in 2011, when Jason Kidd was still in uniform, Dallas was running high off their NBA title run, and LeBron James was a member of the Miami Heat. This year, Dallas matches up once again against King James, but this time as Los Angeles Laker. The Mavs and Lakers have had some compelling battles the last few years, with the Mavericks holding a 4-2 advantage against LA in the last two years. These two teams played incredibly close games last year, and there is a mutual respect between Luka Dončić, Jason Kidd and LeBron.
3) December 27th – Brunson Return Game vs. New York Knicks
Every year in the NBA, some of the best games are when high-priced free agents return to their former cities to take on their old team. This year, that luxury belongs to Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks. Much as been made of the Brunson departure to New York and the storylines surrounding it, from his father being named an assistant coach, World Wide Wes and Leon Rose sitting courtside for Dallas’ playoff games, and Brunson’s desire to have a “bigger role” and step out of the shadow of Dončić. I fully expect Luka to have one of his highest scoring games of the season in this matchup and for the Mavericks to let Brunson know that leaving Dallas was a mistake.
4) December 23rd – Wood Return Game @ Houston Rockets
Nico Harrison wasn’t messing around this offseason when he offloaded four sparingly used players to the Houston Rockets for Christian Wood. Wood adds another offensive element to the Mavericks, a big who can roll to the rim or pop out and hit threes. While his attitude and defensive output have some questions, there’s no doubting his talent. The last time Wood played against a former team for the first time, he put up 18 points and 11 rebounds as a member of the Rockets against the Pistons in 2021. With the guidance of Jason Kidd, the Mavericks hope to unlock a more deadly version of Wood to pair with Luka.
5) November 15th – Luka Revenge Game vs. Los AngelesClippers
Dončić seems to have a personal vendetta against the Clippers. He averages the second most points per game against them in his career (31.4), and in his last three matchups against them, he has put up 26, 51 and 45 points. With Kawhi and Paul George presumably at full strength, it’ll be fascinating to see how the Mavericks handle a Clippers team that should be one of the best in the Western Conference.
6) November 29th – WCF Rematch vs. Golden State Warriors
While the Mavericks exceeded expectations last year making the Western Conference Finals, they were humbled by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. Thanksgiving Week, the two match up for the first time in the 2022-2023 season in Dallas. Golden State returns relatively the same roster, but now with a fully healthy Klay Thompson and emerging star in Jordan Poole. Tim Hardaway, Jr., who missed the playoffs after an injury suffered against the Warriors, should add another scoring option as the Mavericks look to avenge their playoff foe.
7) January 18th – 2018 Draft Trade Matchup vs. Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young and Luka Dončić will forever be tied at the hip, as the two were essentially traded for each other in the 2018 NBA Draft. Young has averaged 20.5 points, 10.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds in six games against the Mavericks, while Dončić has averaged 22.7 points, 9.7 assists and 8.3 rebounds in his six games against Atlanta. The Hawks added former Spur Dejounte Murray as a running mate for Young, adding another dimension to a budding rivalry.
8) February 10th – 2018 Draft Mistake vs. Kings
With the 2nd pick in the 2018 Draft, the Sacramento Kings selected Marvin Bagley III out of Duke University, passing on Luka Dončić. Vlade Divac, GM at the time, was not a fan of Dončić dad and therefore passed on drafting the generational talent. In Luka’s 11 games versus the Kings, he’s averaged 27.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. Bagley III is now a member of the Detroit Pistons, while Dončić is a superstar talent shattering records left and right.
9) December 10th – Slovenian Friendly @ Chicago Bulls
With an available roster spot, Mavericks fans clamored for GM Nico Harrison to add Goran Dragić to the roster. Not only would he add another ball handler alongside Luka and Spencer Dinwiddie, but his friendship with the former would fill the void left by the departure of Boban Marjanović. By all accounts, Dragić would’ve welcomed a move to Dallas, but the Mavericks didn’t envision him playing a significant role on their team. Ultimately, Dragić decided to sign with the Chicago Bulls. Dallas will travel to Chicago in December in what should be a friendly battle between two great friends. Interesting note: Chicago has held Luka to his lowest career scoring average at 24.1 points per game.
10) November 18th – Potential MVP Matchup vs. Nuggets
Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets come to Dallas on November 18th in an intriguing matchup. For the third straight season, Dončić enters the season as the betting favorite to win the MVP award, while Jokic is the two-time reigning MVP. Both teams look to return key rotational players they missed last year, with the Nuggets welcoming back Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, Jr. and Tim Hardaway. Jr returning for the Mavericks.
Bonus Game – January 24th – The Unicorn Returns vs. Washington
Kristaps Porzingis returns to Dallas for the first time nearly a year since he was surprisingly traded from the Mavericks to the Wizards at the trade deadline last season. The KP trade effectively marked the end of the Donnie Nelson era and ushered in Nico Harrison as he made his first big move as GM. Porzingis’ time in Dallas was inconsistent and injury plagued, but by all accounts, he was a consummate professional and did show some flashes of why the Mavericks traded for him.