It’s hard to believe that it has almost been four years since Mavs big man Dwight Powell arrived in Dallas as a somewhat forgotten piece of the now infamous Rajon Rondo trade back in December 2014. After being a second round pick in the 2014 draft and switching teams multiple times before training camp his rookie year, Powell is very thankful for the home he has found with the Mavs.
“This organization and city has done so much for me and my family,” Powell said Friday during the team’s annual Media Day. “It’s a blessing to be here.”
Entering his fifth season (fourth full) with the Mavericks, the 27 year-old enters this training camp with a more defined role than ever. He’s worked relentlessly to get this point in his career. Powell’s games played and minutes per game have each increased every season since he began at just 8.1 minutes per game in 29 appearances his rookie year. Last season, he appeared in a career high 79 games, starting 24 of them, and his minutes increased to over 21 per game as he was a vital part of the Mavericks’ deadly offensive attack off the bench.
The most of impressive stretch of Powell’s season came in ten February games where he averaged over 14 points and 8 rebounds in 29 minutes per game. The 6’11” Toronto-native really seemed to excel once he found his niche in the pick-and-roll game and was an elite above-the-rim threat as the season developed. He finished the 2017-2018 season tied for 19th in NBA for dunks with 96; the same number as Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns who is fresh off signing a 5 year/$190 contract extension this weekend. What allowed Powell to take these steps forward in his development?
“That came from communication with my guards and learning from them on a more detailed level,” Powell explains. “After talking to J.J. (Barea) and Devin (Harris) a lot, there are a lot of small details and nuances that go into being an effective roller. That doesn’t always necessarily result in me scoring, but it helps your team and creates opportunities for other people. I’m still working to expand my game and be ready for whatever opportunities come my way.”
The Stanford graduate flexes an expanded vocabulary and verbalizes his deeper thinking of the game better than any of his other teammates who share their thoughts on Media Day. As a student of the game, Powell looks to use his opportunity to learn from teammates and coaches to his advantage. It was definitely a key to keeping his spirits up during the times he could fall out of coach Rick Carlisle’s yo-yo player rotation over the past four seasons.
“This league is the best league in the world, so you have to understand there’s going to be a period of adjustments. You have to be patient during that time and you have to be receptive to coaching.” Even coming off his best season as a pro, Powell knows there is still room for improvement and knows he needs to continue to play to his strengths. “You have to find a way to do the things you do great at the highest level. You have to be yourself and play to your strengths.”
Although he doesn’t dismiss looking to improve all aspects of his game, Powell is aware that the typical NBA player can’t try to “do too much.” If Powell is to play to his strengths as he alluded to, it’d be as an above-the-rim threat rolling after setting screens for his guards. If he’s looking to get even better at that aspect of the game, there probably could not have been a better player for the Mavericks to have added this summer than new center DeAndre Jordan. That isn’t lost on Powell.
“Offensively, he’s one of the premier rollers in the league,” Powell says about Jordan. “He’s definitely going to be putting on a show out there for us. I’m definitely going to be paying close attention and trying to ask the same questions I asked our guards last year.” The importance of having Jordan’s influence on the other end of the floor doesn’t sneak by Powell either. “The opportunity to be around him, a guy who, especially defensively, brings so much to the table… I’ll just try to pick his brain and take a detailed look into the way he operates.”
With the Dirk Nowitzki era now in its 21st season, it’s safe to say the Mavericks haven’t taken too many rookies and patiently developed them into quality NBA players. The win-now mode of the first decade of the 2000s and the desperation-to-return-to-contention mode of the first half of this decade had the Dallas front office viewing young players and draft picks mostly as pieces to use in bigger transactions more so than any real contributors to their roster. The Mavs must have seen something in Powell to make him the piece they added to the Rajon Rondo package and they’ve certainly liked what they’ve seen from him as they’ve kept him around to become one of the longest-tenured members of the current team now at just 27 years-old.
It’s not hard to figure out why they’d think of him like that whenever you see him working so hard while he’s on the court, cheering harder for his teammates than anyone else while he’s on the bench and carrying himself as professionally as he does when he’s dealing with media and talking to fans in the community. It’s hard to project him turning into some sort of double-double threat averaging close to 20 points per game at any point in his career, but it’s clear that Dwight Powell is a very valuable part of this Mavericks team and he should continue to prove that during the 2018-2019 season.
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