Dwight Powell is a useful basketball player. It took me a long time to realize this. Powell can sometimes appear to be a reverse unicorn. He can neither protect the rim, shoot threes nor be a particularly great switch defender. How is he useful then? Effort.
Powell is basketball competence personified. He is always in the right place, even if things don’t always work out well once he is there. He can be incredibly frustrating to watch because other than the loud dunks, the things he does well do not stand out. He sets solid screens, never turns the ball over and is the closest thing to an effective short roller the Mavericks have had for a while.
How many minutes are left for Powell? The Mavericks have made it clear they intend to start JaVale McGee in the role that Powell finished last season in. McGee will likely not play a ton of minutes, but he will likely eat the 15-20 rim runner minutes with Luka Doncic that Powell occupied last season.
Powell has shown that he is more than willing to do whatever is best for the team. The problem is that if he doesn’t play with Doncic, what use does he really have? Doncic and Dinwiddie are both likely starting which leaves Powell without a dance partner on the second unit. His lone special NBA is skill is rim running and going to the bench means there is no one to throw him lobs. How does he still make himself useful?
Best Case Scenario
The Mavericks find a third ball handler. If this happens, Powell can return to a partnership with Maxi Kleber that was extremely successful in punishing second units for years during the twilight of Dirk Nowitzki’s career.
Kleber is the perfect partner for Powell as he can both space the floor to allow room for Powell’s rim runs while providing defensive help that Powell needs. When the two of them play together, it is one of the most mobile front courts in the NBA.
Worst Case Scenario
The Mavericks are unable to provide Powell with a suitable pick and roll partner and his production vanishes. I love the French Prince as much as anyone but his success will come as a three-and-D player rather than as a ball handler. Powell is the player most dependent on the Mavericks finding a third ball handler.
Continue to stay healthy following his Achilles tendon surgery in early 2020. Powell’s production is a given both in positive and negative ways at this point. The only thing the team needs him to do is to stay healthy.(And maybe try to get hit in the face a little less.)
Fans love to complain about Powell, and it is understandable. He can’t do so many things that we wish he could. But he knows what he can do, and he does absolutely everything he is physically capable of doing to help the team win. There are very few constants in the world. The effort of Powell is one of them.