Is Dwight Powell Good or Bad for the Mavericks?

Image Credit: Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

As the Mavericks have been on a hot streak the last few games everyone has become enamored with the recent play of Tim Hardaway, Jr., and rightfully so. THJ is scorching hot from the field and he has helped an already good offense take another leap. Now all of the Mavs criticism has shifted to Dwight Powell and his slow start to the 2019-2020 Season. To get a better idea if this well earned criticism or just misplaced negativity, let’s do a deep dive into Dwight Powell and his role on the Dallas Mavericks.

In 13 games this season Dwight Powell has started 10 games and is averaging 7.3 points on 64.5% shooting, 4.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. Not much to write home about. Not only are his traditional stats underwhelming but Powell is also posting career lows across the board on most advanced stats.

Dwight Powell Advanced Stats for Last 5 Years

Season Age G MPG PER WS/48
2015-16 24 69 14.4 16.8 0.15
2016-17 25 77 17.3 17.6 0.16
2017-18 26 79 21.2 18.8 0.19
2018-19 27 77 21.6 20.4 0.22
2019-20 28 13 25.4 12 0.11
Career 344 18.1 18.1 0.18

In his age 28 season Dwight Powell is playing more minutes per game than he ever has and is being less efficient than he has ever been. Dwight Powell has been an incredibly efficient player in years past for the Mavericks, but so far this season he has not been scoring, rebounding, or defending as well as he has in past years.

Dwight Powell Advanced Stats for Last 5 Years Continued

Season TS% ORB% DRB% STL% BLK% TOV% USG%
2015-16 55.7% 9.3 20.9 1.8 2 10 18.4
2016-17 58.8% 7.7 19.5 2.4 2.6 7.2 16.7
2017-18 65.6% 8.7 21.3 2 1.7 10.3 15.5
2018-19 68.2% 9.1 17.3 1.3 2.6 10.1 17.2
2019-20 65.5% 7.5 10.4 1 1.5 17.1 11.2
Career 62.7% 8.6 19 1.8 2.2 9.9 16.5

Dwight’s True Shooting Percentage (TS%), which measures efficiency across twos, threes, and free throws, is still near elite levels. However, with the addition of Kristaps Porzingis, Powell’s usage has plummeted to levels he has never seen. Pair this low usage with the fact that Dwight Powell missed training camp and Preseason with a hamstring injury and I think it is reasonable to say that Dwight Powell has not yet found his usual rhythm yet this Season. Perhaps the injury is still lingering but I find that unlikely since he has been seeing a career high 25.4 minutes per game this Season.

We have seen slow starts from Powell in the past but this team is showing too much promise to let him struggle too long in the starting lineup. Luka Doncic has skyrocketed into MVP contention and Kristaps Porzingis is looking more and more effective every game. The Mavericks have very real chances of winning the Southwest Division and a spot in the Playoffs but they need the role players to do their job.

We need to keep in mind, however, that “struggling” is a relative term because the Mavericks are currently tied for 4th in the West and Dwight Powell has a very specific job. Dwight Powell’s greatest strength is exactly what the Dallas Mavericks need him to do for this team. I am confident saying that Powell has an elite ability to read the pick-and-roll as the screener. He knows how to set a solid/well-positioned screen and bail out at the right moment to leave the defense totally exposed in the paint. Not only that but he has the quickness, size, and athleticism to get to the rim in a hurry and finish with at a top level rate. If the offense has been this good with Dwight Powell being a lesser version of himself, I cannot wait to see what it is when he re-gains his rhythm.

Powell’s Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of 63.7% last season was good enough for 8th in the League. eFG% is a shooting percentage that takes into account the added benefit of making threes and Dwight excels in this category because of his ridiculously high 2pt percentage despite his below average three point shooting.

Another factor in his offensive efficiency is Powell’s ability to get to the line and to knock them down. Free Throw Rate (FTr) is the amount of free throws made per shot attempted and Dwight Powell was 8th in the league in FTr. His high energy and aggressive rim attacking style goes a long way in putting foul pressure on the opponent and getting easy points for his team thanks to his 77% free throw shooting last season, good enough for 12th in the league among big men. When you account for his efficient free throw shooting Dwight Powell landed at 3rd in the entire NBA with a 68.2% True Shooting Percentage (TS%).

The Mavericks do not need Dwight Powell to be an All-Star, they need him to be the uber efficient player we have seen he can be. He doesn’t require a ton of volume in terms of shots but his constant activity is a big part of the Mavericks offense. He and Luka can screen/roll you to death and once you start slipping, watching the Luka Doncic show like everyone else, the lob pass is coming and Powell knows how to finish.

The eye test is telling me that Dwight is having trouble with something he has battled his entire career and that is his hand underneath the basket. There is no doubt he can catch and finish above the rim, Powell has dozens and dozens of spectacular and acrobatic alley-oops on his resume. Where he has struggled is handling passes in traffic and holding the ball as he gathers and goes up to finish. Once he goes up he has a knack for finding a way to score, but too often this season he has been in great position and not able to convert because of his hands. Last year Powell convinced me that he had overcome this as he looked much more comfortable catching under the hoop and drawing a foul or finishing in traffic below the rim. Once he re-gains his rhythm and and Luka’s confidence in his ability to catch and finish I think we will all be much more happy with Dwight Powell’s role on this team.

Yes, Dwight Powell has his flaws, but I think he is a great fit for this TEAM. His strengths on offense compliment the key pieces on offense and his flaws are well covered by his teammates strengths. Powell’s roll ability helps open shooters get open shots, Luka’s elite level of defensive rebounding aids Dwight’s average rebounding, and Porzingis’ intimidation around the rim allows Powell to actively switch on defense as KP protects the rim.

With Luka handling the ball, Dwight Powell screening-and-rolling, and shooters all around (including the impossible closeout to Kristaps Porzingis) the Mavericks offense has the definite possibility of maintaining their hold as the best offensive team in the League.

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