Arguably the best foreign-born player in NBA history is Dirk Nowitzki, who was the only NBA MVP Award winner in Dallas Mavericks history in the 2006-07 season. It's obviously early, but current Mavericks star Luka Doncic is well on his way to replacing Nowitzki as the best foreign-born player ever and Luka takes the court for the first time this season Thursday in Atlanta as the +300 favorite to win MVP. The Hawks could be down key reserves Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari but are short favorites. Click here for model picks.
Doncic was an MVP favorite at times last season, too, but ended up finishing sixth. Still just 22, the Slovenian averaged 27.7 points, 8.6 assists and 8.0 rebounds – Top 25 in each category -- and led the league with 22 games of at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists. There's just no one like him.
Dallas blew 2-1 and 3-2 series leads in the first round of the playoffs in losing to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Mavs were "star-hunting" this summer to add around Doncic – Kristaps Porzingis is not a star – but came up short. Frankly, the Mavs had a quiet offseason, re-signing Tim Hardaway Jr. and adding free agents Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown. Yawn. Dallas is given an Over/Under win total of 47.5. The team appears healthy entering the opener.
The Mavericks have a new head coach in Hall of Famer player Jason Kidd, replacing Rick Carlisle, who resigned. Kidd had two playing stints in Dallas during his 19-season NBA career.
Atlanta made a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, upsetting top-seeded Philadelphia in the semifinals and pushing Milwaukee to six in the finals before falling. It was definitely a coming-out postseason for Trae Young as he was spectacular and raised his profile a ton. Young averaged 28.5 points and 9.5 assists in the postseason, becoming the first player in NBA history to post at least 20 points and at least seven assists in each of his first 13 career playoff games. Remember, Young and Doncic were traded for one another on draft night 2018.
Injury-wise, former lottery pick Onyeka Okongwu is out with a shoulder injury but wasn't likely to be a huge part of the rotation yet. Williams is dealing with left hip soreness and Gallinari a sore left shoulder. De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, who missed large chunks of the playoffs injured, are both healthy now.
The Mavericks won both matchups last year vs. the Hawks but by only a combined seven points. Dallas is 2-6 ATS in its past eight in Atlanta.
Looking for the best picks against the spread, sharp action on the total and props you can take to the window? Join Jonathan Coachman on the Early Edge as he speaks with SportsLine's top handicappers to preview every day's biggest games. We promise to keep it short, sweet and to put some green in your pocket. Early Edge is under 10 minutes and in your feed every single day by 11 AM ET. Download right here or wherever you get your podcasts.