It’s official: Dwight Powell is an NBA player. Which, on a team as bad as Dallas was this year, meant that he was arguably the best non-Dirk big man on the roster.
Yes, you heard that right.
In his fourth season, Dwight Powell posted career highs across the board. Powell has been the most consistent rotation big in Dallas the past two seasons, but this year, he displayed a clear step forward in his career progress. He played 21 minutes per game (2nd highest among bigs on the team) and started nearly a third of the season. Whether as a starter or a bench player, Powell was a reliable presence in the paint in an utterly chaotic season.
Granted, 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds a game aren’t eye-popping stats. On any playoff team, Powell would likely be the third or even fourth big in the rotation, but on this roster, he was a key piece. Through all the Nerlens Noel drama and a revolving door of bigs churning through the roster, Powell was dependable. He soaked up minutes, gave good effort, and played well without playing too well.
Going into the season, there were legitimate questions about whether Nerlens Noel’s presence would make Dwight irrelevant, or at least reduce his role significantly. Whether the competition was entirely fair or not, Powell proved this season that maybe we shouldn’t have doubted him. He has proven himself as a legitimate big in this league, at least on the offensive end. There’s still plenty of room to criticize his defense and rebounding—he was out-rebounded by Harrison Barnes this season, so that’s, you know, not ideal.
But overall, Dwight Powell remains dependable, and maybe that’s really all this team needs him to be.
Powell is set to make $9.6 million next season, and he has a player option for a little over $10 million the year after that. Unless he becomes a drastically better player next season, you have to assume he’s gonna take that player option. So, Dallas has their go-to second (or ideally third) big on lock for the next two seasons. Most people probably still think he’s being wildly overpaid, and even with the improvements this season, that’s probably fair. The good news? This isn’t a roster looking for ways of creatively using cap space to compete any time soon, so it really doesn’t matter that Dwight Powell will be paid $20 million dollars over the next two years to average 8 points and 5 rebounds.
At 26 years old, it’s entirely possible that Powell has reached something close to his ceiling as a player. There’s always the chance that he could continue to make some minor improvements, but if this is peak Dwight Powell, that’s probably just fine for this roster, at least next season. As Josh Bowe pointed out a few months ago, he is an elite rim-running big, and that is always valuable in a Rick Carlisle offense, even with the flaws in the rest of his game.
Dallas was one of the worst teams in the NBA this season. They’re trying to figure out a core built around Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith, Jr. and whoever they pick in the lottery this season. Probably Dirk will be back for one last season. The team might be better next season, but there’s almost no chance they will be competing for the playoffs. Powell is a reliable (I know, I know—I’m using that word a lot, but hey it’s apt) player and a likable person. At 26, he’s well positioned to be a good transitional piece to bridge the gap between the younger core and the older vets who hang around.
And hell, if the Mavs find themselves trying to stay in the bottom five or six teams towards the end of next season, Dwight Powell is exactly the sort of player who allows them to continue playing worthwhile basketball without any real chance he single-handedly wins any games for them. Plus he’ll pull one of these off every once in a while:
Or maybe one of these:
My big point is that if you’re not on the Dwight Powell bandwagon by now, you’re welcome to join us. Because he ain’t going anywhere. Let’s enjoy the ride.