This makes no sense. The Mavericks' front office has had a rough offseason so far, but this might be the worst decision yet and it has nothing to do with Dwight Powell as a player. It has to do with basic NBA economics and the fact that Powell was a restricted free agent. Dallas tendered a qualifying offer to Powell, and while someone surely would have thrown him an offer sheet, what team out there really planned on giving Powell more than four at $9 million per year!? Because even if they offer him the exact same deal Dallas did, which we agree is quite a bit, the Mavericks could have just matched the contract.
Maybe someone would have thrown him $45 million, although I have doubts. This offseason has been crazy and money has certainly flown everywhere. Timofey Mozgov got a four-year, $64 million deal from the Lakers, after all. But at least Mozgov had proven to be a valuable contributor for teams before. Powell was in the Mavericks' rotation for about half the year before falling out, making a couple brief but successful appearances in it towards the end of the year.
There's still a lot of belief in Powell's development, to be sure. Right now, his problem is he doesn't have a position. He's better guarding fours on defense because he lacks size, but he really needs to play at the five offensively since he struggles to make a shot outside the paint. (He's a below 30 percent shooter outside of five feet.) Powell still had moments of success throughout the season as a rebounder and in the pick-and-roll, where he's a surprisingly quick and bouncy finisher. Rick Carlisle constantly praised his work ethic, which should give everyone reason to believe that he'll be able to grow into a player. A jump shot, on which he has good mechanics despite limited effectiveness thus far, would probably do that.
But while the Mavericks are right to bet on a hard-working player who is still just 24 years old, they don't need to bet $37 million on him. Again, as a restricted free agent, Powell couldn't leave on his own, not unless a team dramatically outbid for him. Even in this market, handing a big man tweener more than $9 million per season feels like it wouldn't happen. They gave him even more leverage with a player option, too!
Jordan Clarkson was a restricted free agent who is much more proven, and he's making just over $12 million for four years without a player option. The Mavericks clearly paid Powell believing he'll turn into an important player for them, and he very well may. If he does, the money will look fine. But it's hard for me to believe that they couldn't have gotten just a little more value out of this deal, one way or another.