Season in review
After suffering a devastating Achilles injury in January of 2020, Dwight Powell made his return to the court in a speedy fashion starting for the Dallas Mavericks in the 2020-21 season opener against the Phoenix Suns. It’s a testament to Powell’s character and work ethic that he was back on an NBA court within a year of what could have been a career-ending injury, but the season was a work in progress for the veteran forward who played his way into game shape after a grueling rehabilitation process.
In 58 games Powell registered 5.9 points and four rebounds while shooting 62 percent from the field in just under 17 minutes per game. From a statistical perspective, it was a “down” season for Powell, but that’s hardly the narrative of the year. With Kristaps Porzingis not ready for the season opener, Powell was thrust into a starting role and was predictably rusty, connecting on less than 50 percent of his field goals before missing eight games because of COVID protocols.
Battling into game shape after a lengthy injury layoff and a COVID absence, Powell rounded into form as Springtime made its appearance. From March 1 on Powell resurfaced as a springy vertical spacer who finished 70 percent of his shot attempts.
Facing an important two-game homestand against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Mavericks were looking to pick up a second win while jockeying for a favorable playoff seeding. What the Lakers didn’t know was that they were getting a front-row seat to a pick-and-roll masterclass held by Luka Doncic and Dwight Powell as the duo dissected the defending champions' defense to bits. In 28 minutes Powell piled up 25 points and nine rebounds while shooting a smoldering 11-of-12 from the field. He put on an absolute clinic as a roll man with crafty finishes around the rim heaping praise from his head coach and teammates.
Powell’s three-year, $33 million extension kicked in this season as he’s set to make $11 million (with a similar cap hit) over the next two seasons.
A pillar of the Mavericks’ culture for several years now, Powell’s time in Dallas is at a critical inflection point. As the darling of the previous regime’s eye, Powell’s standing will be viewed from a different lens, though his work ethic and intangibles will be highly endeared by whoever is in place. Simply put Powell can either continue to be the culture setter (when it’s arguably needed the most) or the new staff could see him as a small-ball big man nearing 30 with a repaired Achilles whose game is predicated on athleticism.
It didn’t appear that Powell’s injury zapped him of his basketball abilities after working himself back into game shape. He was a fine spot starter and was a respectable finisher around the rim. He’s currently the most adept big man on the roster to blitz pick-and-roll ball handlers, and he’s far and away the best lob threat to partner with Doncic.
With Rick Carlisle and Donnie Nelson no longer in Dallas, it’s truly difficult to gauge Powell’s standing, though it could be argued Powell’s voice and leadership are needed now more than ever.