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Dallas Mavs vs. Orlando Magic Preseason: 4 Things to Watch

The Dallas Mavericks will take on the Orlando Magic in part of their preseason schedule on Friday. What are some key things to watch?

The Dallas Mavericks (1-0) will host the Orlando Magic (1-1) on Friday in what will be the team's only home preseason game this season. 

In their previous outing, the Mavs defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in what was a 98-96 victory. Jaden Hardy and Christian Wood were standouts in what was their first performance with the team. 

The Mavs rested Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Maxi Kleber in their preseason opener against the Thunder, but each will be in the lineup against the Magic. JaVale McGee was sidelined due to an ankle sprain, but he will also be available to play while Davis Bertans remains sidelined. 

Here are four key things to monitor when the Mavs take on the Magic on Friday in their preseason matchup.

4. What's Next for Jaden Hardy?

In the Mavs' preseason opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder, rookie Jaden Hardy made a significant impact to lead Dallas to victory. He finished with 16 of his team's final 22 points and a team-high 21 points on the night. 

“Once I get locked into a zone like that it’s hard to get me out of it,” Hardy said. “I’m just thinking that I’ve got it going, so I’m just thinking about making the right play. I’m just trying to make the right play, make the right read.”

The progression that Hardy has experienced since NBA Summer League has been a consistent highlight for the Mavs. He was a standout in training camp and putting it together during game action was a great next step. 

“It shows the work that (Hardy has) put in since summer league,” Kidd said. “He spends a lot of time in the gym.

“He’s coming back at night, he’s working — not just on the floor — but watching video. He wants to be good, he wants to play, he wants to participate, and again you can see that in tonight’s game.”

There will be more key players back in the lineup, but given its just preseason, it remains to be seen how long they will play. Will Hardy follow up his impressive performance with another as he aims to earn playing time come regular season time?

3. Christian Wood's Continued Acclimation

In his first performance with the Mavs, Christian Wood offered a strong microcosm of what he tends to bring to the table on both ends. He finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds in 25 minutes while showing off his impressive shooting ability and defensive limitations. 

“I tried not to force things,” Wood said. “This is all so new to me, so I’m just trying to figure out where to be offensively with these new guys.

“It took me awhile to get in rhythm, but once I found a rhythm thank God coach Kidd let me play a little bit more than I was supposed to today.”

It's clear that Wood will be featured with the bench unit offensively. The Mavs worked the ball into the post at times while also utilizing his shooting ability as a floor spacer. With Tim Hardaway Jr. returning, there will be more scoring firepower alongside Wood, which should offer a full strategic look. 

Again, there were defensive shortcomings from Wood, even against a team that didn't deploy a true center. It likely will be a process for him to work through his defensive progression with the team throughout the season. Regardless, his scoring ability remains a fascinating asset to utilize. 

2. Tim Hardaway Jr.'s Return to Action

The Mavs will have Tim Hardaway Jr. available to play in a game for the first time since Jan. 25, when he last scored 10 points against the Golden State Warriors. He's fully healthy and ready to get back to making an impact on the court. 

“I feel great. I had an awesome summer," Hardaway Jr. said. "I was able to get back to doing what I love the most. I was very happy with the surgery, very happy with the rehab process, and also very happy I was able to support my guys while I was out.

“I just embraced all that going into the summer, and now I’m 100 percent healthy, ready to go.”

Hardaway watched the Mavs' whole Western Conference Finals from the sidelines. He's excited to return to the lineup and to contribute knowing his skill set will be needed following the departure of Jalen Brunson. 

“I do think they are getting a different player,” Hardaway said. “I only played a handful of games last year. All I can say is I’m excited to go out and compete and give my all.

“JB, what he brought to this team was amazing. He had an incredible run and a well-deserved contract out of New York. I wish him the best. But I don’t think it changes anything here. I got to go out and compete and bring the energy at both ends of the floor.”

Hardaway's presence with the bench unit will be important considering Frank Ntilikina and Josh Green don't tend to be dynamic scoring threats within the half-court. With Wood in the lineup, there are plenty of two-man game options and general half-court actions that can be utilized. How the Mavs approach things will be intriguing to monitor. 

1. Close Look at Regular Units

The Mavs did not have Luka Doncic against the Thunder, and a lot clearly changes with how the team operates when he's playing compared to when he's on the sidelines. Given the expressed desire to keep his workload on the lighter end of the spectrum, how long he plays remains to be seen. 

With Doncic playing, Spencer Dinwiddie won't have to be the primary initiator, and the guard pecking order will be adjusted across the board accordingly. When the regular season comes around, how often the playing time for Doncic and Dinwiddie gets staggered will be an interesting factor to watch. 

The starting lineup will also feature JaVale McGee at center in what will be the first game of his second Mavs tenure. Will his presence be felt in the paint on both ends of the floor? Wendell Carter Jr. and Paolo Banchero will be a good test. 

How the frontcourt rotation is approached will be interesting in itself. Kidd has often highlighted the need for at least one big to be a shooting threat when discussing potential lineup combinations — making McGee and Dwight Powell the only outright unlikely big combination. 

There was some spacing clunkiness with Powell and Wood sharing the floor in the preseason opener. When Wood is playing in the paint, Powell is not respected by the defense as a shooting threat — enabling them to overload the strong-side. That is not the case with Kleber. 

The bench unit will have Maxi Kleber and Hardaway, adding a helpful element of shooting gravity to complement Wood and the rest of the offense. What type of actions will they use? Will Hardaway play with the ball more as an initiator in areas like ball screens, handoffs, or isolation? All will be key to monitor. 

You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.

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