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NBA Preview: Luka Doncic is legit and Dallas Mavericks are bona fide threat to Western Conference playoff hopefuls

The New Orleans Pelicans will have their hands full with one of the best early season surprises tonight!

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans (12-13) will get their first opportunity to see Luka Doncic up close and personal along with the high-flying Dallas Mavericks (12-10) tonight inside the Smoothie King Center at 7:00 p.m.

The Mavericks began the season a dismal 2-7, but they’ve gone 10-3 since and currently sit inside the playoff picture. With wins over the Thunder, Warriors, Celtics, Clippers, and last night, the Trail Blazers, Dallas certainly seems for real; however, it’s impossible to overlook they suffer from the same malady as the New Orleans — they’re terrible on the road, posting a 2-8 away record.

Regardless of the woes away from American Airlines Arena, the Mavericks are a solid bunch according to the statistics and could soon right any wrongs. They have the 12th best offense and 10th best defense, shoot the rock at the 10th best clip according to a 52.9 eFG%, and grab rebounds at the 7th best rate.

Doncic, the famed rookie from Slovenia, is already regarded as their best player at a tender 19 years of age. He is averaging 18.6 points a game, but flashes ability everywhere as evidenced by 6.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.3 makes from deep and a healthy 4.3 trips to the charity stripe. Through his first 21 games in the league, he’s posted a 44.3 field goal percentage, a 38.6 three-point percentage and a 78.9 free throw percentage. At this point, it’s just laughable to think some scouts questioned his athletic ability as well as his perimeter shot and playmaking talents.

As for the rest of the Mavericks, they round out the edges nicely. Harrison Barnes is a dependable second scorer, DeAndre Jordan is the enforcer in the paint and on the glass, Dennis Smith Jr. is slowly improving as a young point guard, and Wesley Matthews is the tough as nails perimeter player. Off the bench, Rick Carlisle has a slew of high-effort players in the stable, including J.J. Barea, Dwight Powell, Dorian Finney-Smith, Devin Harris and Maxi Kleber.

There’s really a lot to like about the team built by Mark Cuban and his staff in Dallas, and they’ll pose a stiff test for the New Orleans Pelicans, who have lost six of their last eight games.

As to where Dallas can be counted on to bring maximum effort to every contest, New Orleans struggles with consistency in that department. In recent weeks, we’ve witnessed everything from a few fourth quarter collapses to bad teams to getting steamrolled in first halves. In their last contest on Monday, the Los Angeles Clippers scored 77 points in the first half and it wasn’t due to any hot three-point shooting on their part or New Orleans turning the ball over at an obscene rate.

Natives are getting restless and one has to believe Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and the rest of the crew have tired of answering a lot of difficult questions about the disappointments witnessed since a 4-0 start to the season. Can Alvin Gentry’s squad beat a good team on their home floor, even if Nikola Mirotic is forced to miss his second straight game due to illness?

We’ll soon find out — Geaux Pels!

Where To Watch

What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Dallas Mavericks

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: Wednesday, December 5, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central

How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO