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Dallas Mavs vs. OKC Thunder Preseason: 3 Things to Watch

The Dallas Mavericks will take on the OKC Thunder in their preseason opener on Wednesday. What are some key things to watch?

The Dallas Mavericks begin their preseason schedule with a Wednesday matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a neutral site game at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

There will be various key Mavs players not participating in the exhibition game. Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Maxi Kleber did not travel with the team to Tulsa. JaVale McGee (left ankle sprain) and Davis Bertans (right knee effusion) are the only actual injured non-participants. 

The Mavs' matchup against the Thunder will be the first of three NBA preseason games before getting their 82-game regular season schedule underway. The rest of their schedule features matchups against the Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz.

Here are three key things to monitor when the Mavs take on the Thunder on Wednesday in their preseason opener.

3. Josh Green's Overall Play

Arguably, the talk of Mavs training camp has been Josh Green's impending breakout season. He's been impressive both when the media has been able to observe in addition to 

“Josh’s work is paying off,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said. “I think if you ask him, his summer was big, he worked with the coaches and spent some time on his game. And you can see the payoff. But I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg for him. He’s just starting. He’s playing at a high level, and that’s good because we need him.”

After going from being the player that was left wide open so Rudy Gobert could anchor the paint in the playoffs, it'll be encouraging to see Green knock down catch-and-shoot 3s at a respectable clip.

There's been frequent mention of Green's aggression attacking off the dribble and new role to shoulder some of the ball handling responsibility. Will that translate to game action? 

2. Christian Wood's Defensive Commitment

There is no denying that Christian Wood brings an impressive scoring arsenal at the five. However, he has been underwhelming defensively in his NBA career despite having impressive lateral quickness and a 7-foot-4 wingspan. As a result, the plan is to begin the season with JaVale McGee as the starting center. 

Where questions remain about Wood's impact is in his contributions on defense. He has been working one-on-one with assistant coach Sean Sweeney, who is a key figure for the Mavs' defense. If Wood takes a leap forward defensively, things change drastically for Dallas.

"I want C-Wood to be himself," Kidd said. "I'm not asking him to do anything that he hasn't done. He's been in this league. He understands how to score the ball. Team defense is something that we will help him with as we go along here. He's capable of doing it. We'll hold him accountable to that. Just being able to play his game. I don't need him to be a microwave, I need him to be C-Wood."

The situation is rather simple for Wood. Prove to be an impact player defensively and it will be too much impact to deny him a starting role. Will the coaching technique translate to results? 

1. Guard Depth Without Luka Doncic

Perhaps the top concern about the Mavs' roster is how they would manage without either Luka Doncic or Spencer Dinwiddie being in the lineup. In their preseason opener, they will be without Doncic. 

There will be a need to place even greater trust in Frank Ntilikina and Josh Green to shoulder more ball-handling responsibility without Doncic in the lineup. How these two players handle their responsibility will be the first look at the Mavs' potential backup plan if Doncic was to be sidelined. 

“I thought Frank and Josh played well for us last year,” Kidd said. “(Josh is) a guy that we truly believe has improved. He had a great year for us last year and has worked on his game this year, so we’re going to ask him to do a little bit more playmaking and handling the ball.

“Frank’s been in this league (for five years), and he’s run a team before (with the New York Knicks). So we’re going to lean on those two to do that.”The projected starting lineup for Wednesday's exhibition game includes Frank Ntilikina at point guard alongside Spencer Dinwiddie in the backcourt. 

Another name to watch is Jaden Hardy, who was acquired by the Mavs on draft night. He's been another player that has received rave reviews from members of the organization throughout training camp. Can he handle initiating the action in situations like high ball screens? Can he get his shot off well against NBA talent as an isolation scorer? 

You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.

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