It sounds weird to say, but it’s true — Dwight Powell is an elite pick-and-roll player in the NBA.
The transformation from a stretch-four to a rim-running five since he’s come to Dallas has been an interesting journey to watch for one of the few younger players on the Mavericks’ roster the last two and a half years. We’ve already touched on Powell’s eye-popping pick-and-roll numbers, but following the game against the Orlando Magic, Powell was nice enough to answer a couple questions after the initial media scrum.
We didn’t talk for long, but I wanted to ask about the transformation ,so what follows is a lightly edited transcript of our (very) short conversation.
Since the moment you came to Dallas and to this year, how do you think you’ve progressed so much in the pick and roll? Has it been the players around you, coaches, off-season work — what goes into that?
It’s a lot of things. First and foremost it comes down to being able to make the reads — coach (Rick Carlisle) talked to me a lot about that, just chalk talk. Out there on the court, I spend a lot of time talking to especially Devin (Harris), J.J. (Barea) and D-Will (Deron Williams) just about what the timing of the read is and when to expect it and when to want it and how fast to roll depending what my man is doing, depending on where he is.
The most important thing of all is screening angles. Getting used to lining his guy up and forcing him over the screen and making two commit to the ball so I can have a chance to roll. Plus we have great shooters on the wing so guys have to make tough decisions if it’s a single-man high to tag hard and give up the three or soft tag and potentially give up the rim.
A lot of focus is put on how guards learn and use the pick and roll but obviously as a big there’s a lot that goes into it as well. It’s not just setting a screen and flashing hard. Has that been the hardest part to learn since being in the league?
Yeah, there’s a lot that goes into just doing it. It takes time to get used to it, and you’ve got to learn your own game as well as the person on your team and what they like to do and excel at.
What do you think has made it click specifically this year? Your percentages are up in a big way this year, especially your finishing percentages are up big-time. (Powell’s shooting a career-high 70.8 percent in the restricted area, one of nine players that are shooting 70 percent or better in the restricted area with at least 150 attempts).
It’s reps. At the end of the day, it’s reps. This league is very different from any other league or level of play and it takes time to learn and get used to playing in it every day.