Brice Paterik / Contributing Writer (@80GradeWhitt)
This past summer has been an eye-opening one for Dwight Powell. It began with his stellar Summer League play, where he averaged 18.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in six games. These performances showed the versatility that the Mavericks saw enough of to get him thrown into the Rondo trade (which I propose we now and forevermore refer to as the Powell trade).
After a lovely couple of weeks in Vegas, Dwight headed south to Mexico City to support his home nation of Canada. With fellow Canadians Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Olynyk leading the charge, Powell was relegated to more of a bench role, averaging about five points and three rebounds in nine minutes through the FIBA Americas Championships.
That type of a bench role is the one Mavs are hoping Powell can fill with them this season whenever he recovers from an elbow injury that has kept him out of the first two preseason games. (It's expected to be soon.) Last season Powell played sparingly, bouncing back and forth between the D-League and the NBA. Time spent with the Texas Legends allowed him to get more minutes in actual games while practicing with the Mavericks down the road in the afternoons. While Powell's 26 points per game won't translate into that at the NBA level, his .393 3-point percentage could.
A natural shooting stroke is one of Powell's most prominent assets and the main reason the Mavs found him suited to be a stretch four. Powell's high release point and consistent mechanics should translate to any level of competition. At 6'11, Powell is able to play center in some small ball lineups, but his lack of physicality make him better suited as a power forward.
With that lack of big boy beef, Powell's post game must come with finesse rather than brute strength. His footwork in the post this summer looked more refined than it had during his appearances in the regular season. Once Powell gets around the rim he has the composure and body control to finish in traffic. In the low post Powell has gained some confidence in his hook shot and even the occasional floater.
You know who else likes the floater? Chandler Parsons. The more film I watch of Dwight Powell, the more he reminds me of the Mavericks' debonair star. Both were four-year college players selected in the second round that handle the ball and shoot better than the average player at their position. Like Parsons, Powell's versatility could earn him a larger chunk of playing time -- if he can earn the trust of Carlisle.
Convincing Carlisle he's worth playing during meaningful minutes is maybe the most crucial aspect of Powell's development. Currently the Mavs frontcourt depth is a big question mark: as of now, Zaza Pachulia will start next to Dirk Nowitzki with Sam Dalembert, Charlie Villanueva and Jeremy Evans making up the rest of the backcourt talent.
Most of the rookie bigs are a longshot to make the roster, which likely means more opportunities for Powell.
With Dirk's age, he won't be playing as many games or minutes, so Powell would likely have even more opportunities to step into a larger role. His defensive rebound percentage wasn't great last year at either level (14.7 percent with the Mavs and 17.8 percent in the D-League). Proving his prowess on the glass would be a great way for the young forward to earn minutes.
Powell's biggest asset to the team is youth and controllability. At 24, Dwight is signed for the upcoming season and then becomes a restricted free agent in the summer of 2016. For a team who's gone through plenty of roster turnover and struggled to get younger, keeping Powell around would be a welcomed step forward in roster stability. So keep half an eye on Powell's progression this year, because it could play a significant role in this season and beyond.