The Mavericks have added one of the top scoring guards in the league in Monta Ellis, and Jose Calderon is one of the league's better playmakers. Unlike last season, Dirk Nowitzki is healthy to start the year.
Dallas should in the playoff mix in the Western Conference, certainly a team the Lakers need to beat for their own postseason hopes.
Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks outplayed Pau Gasol and the Lakers in the playoffs, advancing to the NBA Finals and the championship in 2011.
While both are a little older, they're two of the league's most talented veteran big men.
Through three games, Nowitzki is averaging 23.3 points while shooting 58.3% from three-point range.
Gasol is leading the Lakers through four games at 15.8 points a night, oddly shooting 50% from long distance (3-6). While Gasol is primarily a post player, he's trying to adapt to Coach Mike D'Antoni's system built around spacing and the pick and roll.
Nowitzki is a deadly end-game scorer. Gasol is the better rebounder (averaging 11 a game), although he's currently playing through a respiratory infection.
Containing Monta Ellis will be a challenge for the Lakers.
The 6-foot-3 guard starts at the two next to Calderon at point guard.
D'Antoni has asked Steve Blake to play shooting guard in Kobe Bryant's absence. Blake has struggled with his shot (27.3%) and on defense will be charged with the difficult task of slowing down Ellis -- who is also averaging 23.3 points a game.
Jodie Meeks has played well behind Blake, giving effort defensively while averaging 11.5 points a game on 50% shooting from the field and 42.9% from three-point range.
The Lakers need to find a way to stop the Mavericks' perimeter attack -- while simultaneously spacing the floor.
So far this season it's been hit and miss for the Lakers (2-2).
Another X-factor for the Lakers is Xavier Henry, or "X" as some of his teammates call him.
Henry has been one of the team's most dependable scorers this season at 14.3 points a game while shooting 45.5% from three-point range. He's also taken 31 free-throw attempts, 16 more than his nearest teammate (Gasol at 17).
The Mavericks are 2-1, averaging 111.3 points a game while giving up 107.0.
Without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers are going to have a difficult time coming into Dallas to get the win.