Just How Good Can Dwight Powell Be?

By Jimmy Crowther
Oct. 17, 2016

The season hasn't even started, but the preseason is well under way. The Mavericks are 2-3 in through their first five games, and we are already beginning to see how the summer work has paid off for certain guys. Nicolas Brussino, the surprise youngster out of Argentina has been playing well above expectations in the preseason. Seth Curry looks like he's ready to contribute to a team from day one now. Wes Matthews looks much more explosive and less concerned about that achilles injury. And don't forget Justin Anderson; the rookie has clearly been working on his shot off the dribble and much more. But by far the most impressive guy through the first five preseason games has been third year man Dwight Powell.

Powell stopping Westbrook from driving to the basket on the October 11th preseason game against OKC.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, in his first full season as a Dallas Maverick, Powell played 16 minutes per game and put up 6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 47% from the field. Powell was obviously behind Dirk, then Carlisle seemed to fall in love with Charlie V (ugh), then David Lee came in, and sometimes Chandler Parsons even got more time than Powell did last year at the power forward slot. But, Powell was given a sizable contract this past summer and is expected to be the every day second string power forward from here on out. Dwight could also see a lot of time at center this season, especially  if Quincy Acy steps up and they decide to go with an energetic combo of the two in the front court. So now that he's expected to get the responsibilities everyone is expecting, just how good can he be? 

Powell saw some time at center next to Dirk Nowitzki last season in the first round of the NBA playoffs against OKC.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

At only 14 minutes per game last season, Powell has barely scratched the surface of his full potential. This next season, Powell is going to carry a much heavier load as the now 38 year old Dirk Nowitzki is going to be looking for a lot less time out on the court throughout the regular season. In his 18th season, Dirk played nearly 32 minutes per game. Keep in mind Dirk was 37; to put it into perspective, Stephen Curry played 34 minutes per game, and LeBron played nearly 36; Tim Duncan, two and a half years older than Dirk played 25 minutes per game, and Kobe Bryant, who is the same age as Dirk, played 28 minutes per game on a miserable Laker team. Long story short, it's time for someone to step into the backup four slot that can take some minutes away from Dirk. While Carlisle has been quoted in saying that Powell will be used as a backup, small-ball center, he will still see quite a time at the backup power forward.

Assuming Powell plays 20+ minutes per game for Dallas, he can really break out into something special. Per 36 minutes played, Powell was averaging 15 points per game and pulling down 10 rebounds per game, a double-double. Not to bring up a sore spot for Mavs fans, but to put this into perspective, DeAndre Jordan averaged 14 points and 14 rebounds per 36 minutes played. Now, obviously Powell is no DeAndre Jordan, but his effectiveness in the scoring and rebounding department is not far off. Given the opportunity, I can honestly see Powell averaging a double-double off the bench instead of just the respectable 6 and 4 each night. The biggest strength in Powell's offensive game is his pure athleticism and aggressiveness. Dwight shot 47% from the field last season, and more than 50% of his shots came from in or around the restricted area. A lot of these shots come from being on the receiving end of alley-oops or following up a missed shot and flying to the rim before any of his opponents. While this is all great, there is still room to grow.

Dwight Powell's 2015-16 shot chart via vorped.com

Powell harps on working on his jumper, but there has not been a lot of consistency in that area. He has a smooth jumper, it just looks a bit rushed from time to time. His mid-range isn't awful, but his three point shot is. As a big, it isn't necessarily expected of him to step outside and hit a three, but guys his size usually have the corner three in their arsenal. Another area Powell needs to work on is his consistency. Some games he came in guns blazin' and was an immediate spark off the bench. Other times he couldn't finish to save his life and would get into immediate foul trouble. Defensively, Powell has a lot of room to grow, but the fact that he apparently put on 15 pounds of "basketball weight" shows a lot of promise. He has shown evidence of being weak in the post, but the 15 pounds should improve that area quite a bit. The final area that I have noticed that Powell needs to work on is finishing through contact. Yes, he can dunk all over people from time to time, but a lot of times when he drives to the basket himself, he whines for the foul before finishing the shot. Powell is a 74% free throw shooter, so if he can get there, great, but he needs to worry about finishing his shot before looking to the ref for a whistle. 

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Long story short, Powell is going to be in the rotation every single night. He's making $36 million over the next four years, so he better be, we can't afford to just let his 6'11, 25 year old, Canadian butt just ride the bench. I've been excited to see what this kid can really do since he got a short amount of playing time in his first year as a Maverick, and now, he is in prime position to reach his full potential. Who knows, maybe he's the power forward when the Dirk days are over. 

Just because.