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NBA expert Jonathan Macri is here with his prediction and picks for the 2021 NBA season opener for the Atlanta Hawks vs. Dallas Mavericks.

NBA Predictions: Atlanta Hawks vs. Dallas Mavericks Picks

When: Thursday, October 21, 7:30 p.m ET

Where to Watch: TNT

Spread: Hawks -2.5

Total: 234.5

Click Here For Hawks vs. Mavericks Odds

Atlanta Hawks vs. Dallas Mavericks Prediction

If we’re having a conversation about league-defining trades of the last 20 years, few contenders are as formidable as the draft night swap that sent Luka Doncic to Dallas and Trae Young to Atlanta.

There have certainly been transactions that have directly altered championships – the last three teams to hoist the trophy all did so thanks to franchise-altering trades, to say nothing of the deals for Shaq, KG, and Pau Gasol that swung titles in the previous decade – but how many other swaps have solidified organizational centerpieces for not one but two different teams?

The Nets/Celtics blockbuster that sent Garnett and Pierce to Brooklyn helped set up Boston’s future and eventually resulted in the Nets bottoming out, which then forced an organizational overhaul, which ultimately resulted in KD and Kyrie, but that was a far more tangential series of events. Maybe if George Hill had been a better player who lifted Indiana to a title, the draft night swap that sent him to the Pacers in exchange for Kawhi Leonard would be in the running as well. If SGA turns into something special in OKC, perhaps the Paul George-to-LA trade joins the conversation.

For now, though, Luka for Trae (plus the draft pick that turned into Cam Reddish) is the leader in the clubhouse. Neither team is on the inner circle of contenders at the moment, but each is knocking at the door, and their respective engines are leading the charge, making this opening week matchup one to pay attention to.

Let’s start with Atlanta, the team that made it farther last year but is seen as having the lower ceiling of the two. Perhaps that has to do with the quality of the top two teams in the East or the fact that there is no bona fide second star, but the most obvious answer is that people still don’t buy a team as a real contender whose best player is a tiny guard. In other words, the 2020 playoff run was a fluke.

The numbers suggest the opposite and that we may be sleeping on a giant. From the date Nate McMillan took over, and Bogdan Bogdanovic returned from injury last season, the Hawks tied for the 3rd most wins in the NBA and the 7th best net rating. The only other teams to sport both a top-eight offense and defense in that span were the top-seeded Utah Jazz, and the would-be favorite Los Angeles Clippers had Kawhi not gotten injured.

Those Clippers were also the team responsible for outing the Mavs in the first round last season before Leonard went down with a torn ACL. So it’s entirely possible that had Kawhi stayed healthy, Dallas would be viewed not as a first-round out but instead the team that gave the eventual champs their biggest test.

Coming into this season, expectations are reasonably high. Like Atlanta, Dallas turned a corner after a hellacious beginning to last season, winning 33 games from February 5th onward, a number that tied for the 5th most in the league. More importantly, for our purposes in analyzing this game, over their last 22 road games, the Mavs had the best road net rating in the entire NBA - plus 6.7, a significant distance better than the second rated Jazz at plus 5.0 over the same time frame. Their finish to the 2020-21 season has generated a fair bit of buzz heading into this one.

That’s what happens when you have a 22-year-old two-time preseason favorite for MVP. Even so, of the two teams, Dallas is the one with more unanswered questions. Atlanta is returning almost the same core, and save for backup big man Onyeka Okongwu, enters this game in full health. They may not have Doncic, but they are a deep, well-oiled machine looking to prove last season wasn’t a fluke.

The Mavs, on the other hand, have a new head coach whose last team went on to far greater heights the moment he left town. In addition to the transition to Jason Kidd, the role and health of Kristaps Porzingis remains one of the league’s great mysteries. At the moment, Dallas is committed to playing big, with KP at the four, and feeding him possessions in the post, even though that’s historically been an area of struggle. The long-term buy-in they get from that move may wind up paying off eventually, but it also might result in a bumpy ride at first.

Throw in Atlanta’s dominance at home, where they were 17-2 in the regular season under McMillan and the fact that this is a one-possession spread, and it’s hard to see a good reason to go against them.Dallas may still win this trade handily before all is said and done, but on this night, at least, it’s the Hawks who will come out on top.

Atlanta Hawks vs. Dallas Mavericks Pick

Article Author


Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.


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