In what has turned into one of the more fascinating growth storylines over the last four and a half years in Dallas, athletic big man Dwight Powell finished up another season with the Mavericks where he continues to be a valuable piece of the rotation. It’s not always common to see a role player outplay a contract, yet Powell has turned himself into one of the better long term bench players over the last several seasons. And this summer, Powell finds himself at an interesting turning point.
Powell has been pretty durable over the course of his time with the Mavericks, and this season was no different. He appeared in 77 games (22 starts), averaging a career-high 10.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in just under 22 minutes per game. Over the last two seasons in particular, Powell has put in the work to perfect one area of his game: being elite in the pick and roll. This season, among players who were the roll man for at least 50 possessions, Powell was tied for 7th at 1.33 points per possession.
Credit DP for working his butt off, a key attribute for any role player looking for a long leash from Rick Carlisle. For his flaws and faults, Powell is in constant hustle mode on the floor, reflective of his practice habits. He has also formed expert chemistry with veteran point guard J.J. Barea, who is a master of Carlisle’s two-man game. When Barea went down for the season with injury, there was concern that players like Powell would be affected by his absence. But with a larger role after trades shook up the roster, Powell only played more aggressively and was still dynamic.
One point of debate among Mavs fans has been Powell’s outside shot. After being truly historically bad for the first 45 games of the season when he shot 19-percent (!) from three on 62 attempts, Powell somehow flipped the script and shot nearly 42-percent (!!!) from deep on 65 attempts in the final 37 games. Something clicked for Powell, though the result should only be taken with the tiniest grain of salt.
Outside of that, Powell is consistent if not spectacular in other areas. He’s a sneaky good defender away from the basket, switching on screens, though he rarely has that duty. His rebounding and rim protecting always leaves something to be desired. But all that being said, he continues to be one of the few consistent contributors for the Mavericks.
Powell has a $10.3 million player option to complete the fourth and final year of this contract. He can opt in and become a free agent next summer, sign an extension with the Mavericks, or opt out and sign a new contract with Dallas or any other team. For what he provides, $10 million is a pretty fair price.
This is an intriguing moment for Powell, who turns 28 this summer. Owner Mark Cuban made comments recently on Dallas radio that the Mavericks were going to extend Powell. Anything Cuban says should be taken at arm’s length, especially at this time of year. But it mostly makes sense for the Mavs to try and hold on to their productive role player.
Assuming Powell is at the very least in Dallas for next season, he’ll be a key piece. Depending on what else happens in free agency it wouldn’t be surprising if Rick Carlisle experiments with Powell playing alongside Kristaps Porzingis in the starting lineup. He could still be the vertical threat crashing to the basket while Luka Doncic and Porzingis play their two man game stretching the defense. It isn’t a perfect fit, but Carlisle could use Powell’s lob-game with their stars.
Still, Powell makes the most sense as a key piece of the bench mob, creating havoc against weaker bench opponents. It would be unwise to expect too much to be added to Powell’s game, and that’s okay. If he can bring his hustle and athleticism next season (and maybe a few after) he will have a solid role on a Mavericks team that is hopefully trending up.