25 Sep Whether Mavericks fans embrace the idea or not, Dwight Powe…
Mavericks media day is next Monday and training camp begins the following day, Oct. 1. This week, DallasNews.com is counting down five keys to the Mavericks contending for their first playoff berth since the 2015-16 season. Today, key No. 3.
This summer’s free agency period barely was a day old when realization set in and Mavericks fans’ howls of disbelief arose on social media.
The Mavericks aren’t pursuing a top-tier big man?
Dwight Powell is going to be our STARTING CENTER?
These expressed concerns were somewhat mitigated by the fact Powell will be flanked this season by a 7-foot-3 power forward, Kristaps Porzingis, and that on many nights Porzingis will defend opposing teams’ centers.
Still, there is Powell skepticism among the fan base, perhaps because he’s a second-round pick (No. 45 overall in 2014) or perhaps because he doesn’t have the prototypical center build (240 pounds) on his 6-foot-11 frame.
So why was Powell anointed as the starter even before free agency began, when he and the franchise agreed to a three-year, $33 million extension?
It’s because coach Rick Carlisle regards Powell to be an ideal complementary starter alongside both Porzingis and Luka Doncic.
Powell doesn’t demand shots, but when he does shoot it’s with high efficiency. His field goal percentage of 59.7 would have ranked sixth in the NBA last season, but with 290 field goals made he fell 10 short of the minimum needed to qualify for league leadership.
Powell’s poor 3-point shooting starts in each of the last two seasons raised questions about his ability to stretch the floor. In 2017, he shot 26.9% from 3-point distance prior to the All-Star break, but shot 43.8% afterward.
Last season, he made just 8 of 48 3-pointers (16.7%) through December, but shot 39.2% (31 of 79) the rest of the way. In 22 games as a starter after DeAndre Jordan was sent to the Knicks in the Porzingis deal, Powell averaged 11.3 pints, 7.5 rebounds and shot 61.3%, including 44.4% (20 of 45) from 3-point range.
Mavericks coaches rave about Powell’s perpetual effort, passing and Stanford-educated acumen — his ability to recognize when and where to set picks, roll or dive to the basket.
It certainly was no accident that when Carlisle and assistant coach Jamahl Mosley visited with and worked out Doncic in his hometown of Ljubljana, Slovenia, last May, Powell went with them. And Powell accompanied owner Mark Cuban to the NBA Awards in Los Angeles, where Doncic received the Rookie of the Year Award.
With Dirk Nowitzki’s retirement, Powell, 28, trails only J.J. Barea in Mavericks tenure, and whether fans currently embrace the idea or not, he is a major part of the franchise’s plans.
It remains to be seen how Powell and Porzingis will defend the likes of Joel Embiid, Andre Drummond, Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Ayton in the paint, but the better question might be how those players will contest Powell or Porzingis on the perimeter.
If Powell avoids another poor perimeter-shooting start this season, there’s a good chance he’ll win over his faction of unconvinced fans.
Five keys to making the playoffs
No. 5: Continuity