Over the last few seasons the Dallas Mavericks have not been the best defensive team. This year is the first year they have been in the top half of the league in defensive rating, an achievement they have not seen since the 2016-2017 season. The Mavericks offensive rating on the other hand has been one of the best in recent years, so much so that the 2019-2020 Mavericks had the most efficient offensive rating in NBA history. However, this year so far the Mavericks offensive rating of 99.7 has been their second worst in franchise history. The way they can improve both their defense and offense is by starting a center that is better statistically than Dwight Powell on both ends and that center is Maxi Kleber.
Time on the Court
Kleber has only started in one out of the seven games so far this season. In the one game he did start, he was only able to play seven minutes, due to a back injury he sustained during the game against the Nuggets. Kleber has averaged 18.8 minutes per game (MPG) this season. Kleber leads the team in win share at 0.5.
Powell on the other hand has started in all eight Mavs games this season. He has played 24.4 MPG in those seven starts. His win share so far is 0.5
Offensively Kleber has scored 7.2 points per game (PPG) and 0.5 assists per game (APG). Kleber’s per 36 minutes would have him averaging 13.7 PPG and 1.0 APG. When it comes to shooting from the field he has made 50.0% of the shots while making 47.8% from beyond the arc. His offensive rating for the season is at 129, while his offensive rating for his whole career averages out to 120.
On the offensive end, Powell has scored 8.1 PPG and has 1.0 APG. Powell’s per 36 has him averaging 12.0 PPG while having 1.5 APG. He has made 56.1% of his shots from the field, while making 40.0% from three-point land. His offensive rating so far this season has been 118, while his career offensive rating averages out to 127.
If Kleber is given the starting center position he would be able to help to score 1.7 more points on average. Kleber also has the slight edge when it comes to three-point shooting, career-wise he has shot 37.1% from three compared to Powell’s 29.2%. Powell is able to help out more with assists and pass it out to shooters like Luka Doncic or Tim Hardaway. But, having Kleber start adds another player that can shoot when needed, which comes very handy in this era of the NBA to have a big man that can shoot. Kleber’s effective field goal percentage is 69.6% while Powell’s 58.5%, Kleber’s three-point shooting boosts his effectiveness on the offensive end.
Defense is where Kleber is at his best. He’s averaged 5.3 rebounds per game (RPG), 0.5 steals per game (SPG), and 1.2 blocks per game (BPG) this season. Kleber’s per 36 would average out to 10.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG, and 2.2 BPG. His defensive rating is 100, while his career defensive rating is 111. This has been his best defensive season so far.
Powell has been consistent on the defensive end so far this season. He’s averaged 4.6 RPG, 0.9 SPG, and 0.6 BPG. When it comes to Powell’s per 36 stats, he would average 6.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG, and 0.9 BPG. His defensive rating for the season is 108, which is his best defensive rating in a season in four years. His career defensive rating is 108.
Kleber currently has the advantage when it comes to rebounding, blocks, and steals. Even though Powell has a better career defensive rating in the past few years it slowly has climbed up a bit and went back down for this season. Kleber on the other hand has been having his best defensive season in his career. In the fourth game of the season against the Spurs, Kleber got six blocks, that’s one more than Powell has gotten so far this whole beginning part of the season. Powell has gotten at least one steal in all but two games. Putting Kleber in the first unit helps to get the ball back more with his rebounding ability and to stop the other team from scoring near the basket with his blocking ability.
The Eye Test
The stats and analytics don’t tell the full story on how Kleber can help the team by being the starting center. During the last Mavericks playoff series against the Clippers, Kleber was assigned to primarily guard Kawhi Leonard, their best player. Kleber didn’t disappoint, in game 1, Kleber held Leonard to just 26 points on 40.9/16.7/77.8 shooting. That was the same game that Leonard dunked on Kleber, but it showed that Kleber isn’t afraid to be posterized while playing defense and that it won’t make him back down on the defensive end.
“Obviously it was an amazing dunk, because I honestly didn’t expect him to jump up and dunk,” Kleber said after game 1. “But it’s not going to hold me back, because at the end of the day every possession counts and I couldn’t foul, and I would do it every time.”
Kleber’s willingness to get back up and play hard defense shows he has the drive that would be helpful in the starting five.
The Starting Center
Coach Jason Kidd in the pre-season talked about why he chose Powell as the starting center to start the season.
“Well, I think when you talk about Dwight, unselfish, it is always about the team,” Kidd said. “He’s a guy who does all the little things. You can label them as all the dirty things, or there are guys that don’t want to do the little things, so I think he fits perfectly with that starting group. I understand he’s coming off that injury. I think he’s past that mentally and physically, and he’s shown that coming into camp ready to go.”
Kleber shows the same traits as Powell. Powell suffered a major achilles tendon injury during the 2019-2020 season that made him miss the rest of that season, and his numbers were all down last season when he came back from the injury. Kleber on the other hand hasn’t had any major injuries and has stayed consistent when it comes to his stats. Having Kleber start and Powell come off the bench could just be what the Mavericks need to have a successful season.
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