As we inch closer and closer to the Dallas Mavericks' season kicking off on October 25 versus the already impressive Victor Wembanyama and San Antonio Spurs, it's worth noting that Dallas has dealt with their fair set of trepidations so far.
Dallas has started 0-3 in preseason thus far and they've been riddled with over 17,000 miles of travel and minor injuries to star guards Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving ahead of their final preseason game at home versus Detroit this Friday.
Through all this, the Mavericks still haven't come to a definitive conclusion as to who the fifth starter is going to be come opening night. Throughout preseason play so far, Jason Kidd has toyed with various different lineups and rotations.
NBA Insider reveals Mavericks' unexpected potential fifth starter
However, it's obviously too early to tell which combinations will be most effective this upcoming season in Dallas since the minute distribution in preseason tends to be fairly equal across the board so the front office can get a chance to evaluate everyone fairly.
Jason Kidd already penciled in Luka Doncic, Grant Williams, and Kyrie Irving as starters ahead of training camp, but the last two spots have remained relatively ominous until recently. The Mavericks' big men have performed worse than one would hope for through three preseason games, specifically veteran centers Dwight Powell and Richaun Holmes.
Rookie Dereck Lively II has a unique blend of length and athleticism that makes him a viable rim protector, and he's easily the most promising big man through three preseason games so far as well as the best option to start at center.
However, Lively II's deficiencies are well documented. It's already noticeable that the rookie big man will have his woes on both sides of the ball in regard to his lack of strength and awareness.
It's not Lively II's fault that he's been thrown into the fire this early as a rookie so fans will need to tamper their expectations for the 19-year-old, but NBA insider Marc Stein recently essentially confirmed Lively II is the favorite to be starting at center for Dallas in a television appearance with Bally Sports Southwest during the Mavericks' game versus Real Madrid.
Stein also had some juicy information as to who the Mavericks' fifth starter could be beyond just Lively II in his recent Saturday substack (subscription required). And it's fairly clear it would likely be a wing given that Lively II is the plausible starting center while Irving, Doncic, and Williams account for the other three slots in the Mavs' theoretical starting lineup.
"Rookie Olivier-Maxence Prosper does not appear ready for such a prime-time role and fourth-year Mavericks swingman Josh Green hasn't seized the spot, either. Derrick Jones Jr., signed by the Mavericks to a minimum deal in mid-August, has played himself into contention for the starting berth. The play of Dante Exum, another minimum signing, was among the trip’s few bright spots."- Marc Stein
As Stein puts it, it appears that Derrick Jones Jr., Josh Green, and Dante Exum are all potentially in contention for the Mavericks' last starting spot on the wing. But it's particularly intriguing that Stein listed Jones Jr. as a specific candidate to take control of a starting berth.
Jones Jr. has flashed his off-the-rails athleticism and defensive prowess in the Mavs' first few preseason games, but he'll need to continue to hit on those intangibles as well as his 3-point shot if he wishes to surpass Green or Exum for the last spot in the starting lineup as they've both also impressed early on during the preseason.
We'll have you covered with who ends up winning out the Mavericks' fifth starting spot as well as the latest going on with the rest of the team as we approach opening night.