Dwight Powell is proving himself as a starter

By almost every metric imaginable, Dwight Powell is playing the best basketball of his career right now.

Dwight Powell’s shot chart since Nov. 18 is really good. (Click for full-size image.)
Four of his seven highest-scoring games as a pro have come in his last five appearances. He’s coming off an 18-point, 12-rebound performance against Clint Capela and the Houston Rockets, has pulled down at least 10 rebounds three times in the last two weeks, and has become the most efficient roll man in the NBA. Of the 61 NBA players with at least 75 possessions as the latter half of the pick-and-roll, Powell leads the pack in scoring efficiency at an absurd 1.358 points per possession. The only other player in the league above even 1.300 is Capela, who has the luxury of catching passes from James Harden and Chris Paul, two of the most feared ball-handlers of this generation.

“I’m just trying to be in the right place at the right time, and guys are making plays for me,” Powell said. “They’re putting me in high-percentage situations, and I’m catching the ball and finishing.”

That might make you think this season has been smooth sailing, that Powell’s progression is another case of a young player developing in a natural, linear way. Then again, all of Powell’s five starts this season (and half his career starts) have come in the last two weeks. He’s adjusted his playing style — or the coaches have changed up his role — a couple different times this season, sliding from stretch-4 to rim-running 5. He’s averaging a career-high 19.6 minutes per game, but he only recently surpassed the 3,500-minute milestone for his career. (By comparison, Harrison Barnes has already played more than 4,700 since joining the Mavericks last season.) This might make you wonder why Powell, currently in his fourth season as a pro, either is nearing his ceiling or must be flawed in some way for it to have taken so long to find his niche. He’s only 26, but in this day and age when teenage phenoms burst on the scene every fall, is 26 even young anymore?

It’s possible that all of those worries are true, although it’s unlikely. Zooming out, Powell is on an outstanding five-game run, is having a strong season, and has progressed each season since coming to the NBA. He’s barely even played two seasons’ worth of minutes, despite his age — and I can assure you that 26 is still young. You’d be hard-pressed to find many non-All-Stars who can establish an elite skill so early in their career, even though Powell is older than many fourth-year guys due to sticking around at Stanford through his senior year. (There are many worse places to spend four years than at that institution.) He’s statistically a gifted rim-runner. You want to earn more minutes? Show you can do something better than anyone else. Below is a chart comparing Powell’s pick-and-roll efficiency with some of the biggest names in the top-10 in the league. The entire list is here.

Player Roll Man Possessions Roll Man Points/Poss
Dwight Powell 106 1.358
Clint Capela 214 1.332
Blake Griffin 104 1.250
DeAndre Jordan 94 1.234
Steven Adams 168 1.214

Powell’s recent workload has of course been tied heavily to the Mavericks’ performance in the standings. Rick Carlisle said over the weekend that he’s going to begin rolling back minutes for the more established veterans, particularly late in games, with Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki chief among them. That leaves a huge number of minutes available, and many thus far have gone to Powell. This is his chance to prove his value not only as a player but as a financial investment; he has two more years remaining on his deal following the 2017-18 season, and at 26 years old you can’t blame the Mavericks for wanting to see just what their young big man could be capable of when given more responsibility in terms of role and workload. In particular, to Carlisle, that means seeing him start games and play huge minutes as opposed to his typical 16-20 minutes at the office.

“There are times when you play guys off the bench, and there can be an assumption that at a certain point it’s gonna be diminishing returns,” Carlisle said. “But with guys like Dwight, you’ve got to find out what the starting role is gonna yield.”

For Powell, starting games means going up against better competition and also playing with some not-as-familiar faces. Since coming to Dallas in the 2014-15 season, Powell has not known a second unit without Devin Harris; he’s caught a heck of a lot of lobs from J.J. Barea, too. But in the last couple weeks, he’s been playing more with Dennis Smith Jr. and Yogi Ferrell, and although Ferrell is a restricted free agent this summer, it seems likely that both of those guys could be around here for a while. One common thread connecting the starting lineup and the bench throughout this period of change is Dirk Nowitzki, who splits his time almost evenly between the first and second units. Powell is a menacing lob threat when playing in a wide-open floor, and the Mavericks’ pristine floor spacing always places Powell in as much space as possible. Dallas added Doug McDermott into the fold at the trade deadline, and his 3-point shooting figures to unlock even more room inside the arc.

The final third of this season is going to be a bit experimental, to say the least. Powell’s presence in the starting lineup — and the Mavs fielding a young, nine-man rotation on Sunday night in Houston, for example — tells you as much. But the tinkering doesn’t just end with the starting lineup. Carlisle said he wants to see McDermott play some power forward down the stretch, which will involve soaking up some minutes from Nowitzki and his old Ames High teammate Barnes. But McBuckets won’t be the only Maverick playing more 4. Powell will, too.

“That’s something that’s gotta be looked at in some way, shape, or form at some point,” Carlisle said.

That might come as a bit of an eyebrow-raising revelation to some, given Powell’s inarguable success as a roll man this season. He’s shooting better than 77 percent in the restricted area since Nov. 18, which was the day that not so coincidentally involved a change in the starting lineup and Powell’s return to playing center exclusively. His development as a lob target has certainly been a triumph for Mike Procopio and the Mavs’ player development staff. But someone’s got to play power forward minutes, and with Nerlens Noel’s return looming and two-way rookie Johnathan Motley figuring to receive more looks at center, too, Powell will have a chance to show what he’s got.

“I’ve been preparing for that situation for a long time, and I’m going to continue to prepare for it,” he said. “When the time comes, I’m gonna try to execute it to the best of my ability and help us win.”

Powell has attempted only 16 above-the-break 3s in nearly three months, but at some point between now and the end of the season he’s going to assume the role of power forward once again, when he’ll presumably have more chances to shoot the long-ball. I would assert to those who would find this curious that he’s going to shoot more from deep, but he’s not going to magically lose his ability to catch lob passes. By now, the Mavericks have seen enough evidence to know that Powell is fully capable in that department. The rest of this season is about continuing to help him blossom in other areas. If he can develop a consistent 3-pointer, it would make him one of the few players in this league who can excel as both a floor-spacing and lob-catching big

His on-floor workload has resembled that of a rim-running 5, but he’s still been putting in work in the gym to develop that outside game all along. We’ve seen the fruits of his labor on a small scale — he’s 11 of 17 on mid-range jumpers and 4 of 8 on corner 3s since Nov. 18, hinting that he’s getting more comfortable from range, albeit on a small sample size — which has got to make him feel pretty good. The work hasn’t stopped because he always knew this day was going to come.

“Twenty to 30 percent of the things I work on every single day, I don’t necessarily do in the game that follows the workout,” Powell told us earlier this season on the Numbers on the Boards podcast. At the time, Skin and I didn’t know that our conversation with him was coming at a moment when his game was making a shift. At the time, he’d only recently returned to his rim-running ways. We thought it might be a phase; we didn’t know he was going to shoot almost 67 percent for the next 40 games.

Powell is not only a realist, but he buys in to coaching. His IQ and willingness to embrace learning have helped him understand that he’s got to remain flexible as the Mavericks go through this phase of rebuilding with youth. He’s shown he can fill one role at a very high level, but he’d be an exponentially more valuable player if he can prove he can fill others, too. He doesn’t view constantly moving back and forth between 5 and 4, then back to 5, as being jerked around or over-coached. He accepts it as a necessary step in his development. And he’s put in enough work behind the scenes to feel confident that he’ll be ready when the chance comes to show that ability.

“As time goes on and things change, or we’re playing against different matchup or different opponents, or rotations change, those things that may need to be done in a different way, or the skillset that I need to bring to the game, it’s been a part of the routine since Day One,” Powell told us way back then. “So it’s not as if I’m changing anything. It’s just those things are constantly being worked on, but they may just be on the shelf for now.”

In retrospect that entire quote seems like an eerie bit of foreshadowing. It’s almost like they knew this was going to happen the whole time. Maybe they did, or maybe Powell is just a flexible dude. After seeing the level he’s played at these last couple weeks, it’s going to be very interesting to see what he’s going to be able to do with more playing time down the stretch. The opportunity will certainly be there, and Powell is going to be ready to take advantage, no matter which role he’s asked to fill.

Big men play huge in Mavs win against OKC

Highlights: Mavs vs. Thunder

Dwight led the team with 16 points and Dirk made his preseason debut as the Mavs defeat the Thunder 114-109 Tuesday night.

While more eyes were on Dirk Nowitzki in his preseason debut, the Mavs’ other big men ended up stealing the spotlight in Tuesday night’s 114-109 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Andrew Bogut, Dwight Powell, and A.J. Hammons combined for 28 points, 23 rebounds, and four blocks in the win, each playing in his own style and to his own strength during his time on the floor.

The Mavericks are still working every player into the mix — last night both Nowitzki and Devin Harris debuted, but Wesley Matthews and Seth Curry both sat out for precautionary reasons while Quincy Acy and Salah Mejri missed with injuries — but if the win against the Thunder showed anything, it was that the Mavericks could be a much different team at the center spot this season. And, perhaps, much-improved as well.

Cue the highlight reel.

Andrew Bogut

Bogut was phenomenal in his first home action as a Maverick. He scored only four points on 1-of-5 shooting, but he tallied 11 rebounds, three blocks, and three assists in just 16 minutes. His scoring won’t be as integral an ingredient to this team’s success as his court vision and passing will be, anyway. Bogut reads the floor like a point guard and is capable of delivering passes at a variety of angles to set his teammates up.

Here he finds Harrison Barnes on a cut from the elbow.

The geometry of that play prevented Bogut from delivering a leading pass to Barnes, so instead the center opted for the basketball equivalent of a back shoulder fade. All Barnes had to do was collect the pass, spin, and go up. (Barnes has been very effective moving off the ball so far this preseason.)

Bogut also appears to have the green light to bring the ball up the floor on occasion, which led to this gem of a pass to a backdoor-cutting Devin Harris.

And this no-look, between-the-legs pass to Deron Williams is equal parts style and substance.

It’s fancy, sure, but the ball hits Williams in stride and sets him up for an open 3-pointer, at the same time allowing Bogut to remain in position to set an immediate screen on Williams’ man to give him even more space. That’s a useful pass, one Bogut said he added to the toolbox after playing with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for so many years in Golden State.

But Bogut also played terrific defense, blocking three shots and controlling the paint against a tough assignment, OKC center Enes Kanter. The Thunder scored only 72.2 points per 100 possessions when Bogut was on the floor, per NBA Stats, and the team maintained only a 30.3 effective field goal percentage when the Australian played. That’s not a sustainable number, of course, but some of that struggle came as a direct result of Bogut’s interior presence. Mavs fans are about to understand just how good a player Bogut is.

Dwight Powell

The same could be said for Dwight Powell, as the young big man has continued his impressive preseason. He scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting against the Thunder and grabbed seven rebounds, his second consecutive game with 15+ points and 7+ rebounds.

Last season Powell played a ton of center minutes toward the beginning of the season, but as the campaign wore on he spent more of his time at power forward. So far in the exhibition season he’s played both positions again, but he’s appeared much more effective at the center spot than he did in 2015-16.

He’s performed in the vertical game, throwing down a standard alley-oop dunk against the Thunder along with this, um, unconventional one from J.J. Barea.

There’s no question Powell can excel as a finisher in the lob game, but his biggest area of improvement heading into the offseason had to be developing his mid-range jump shot, and so far he’s reliably knocked it down.

Why is that such an important element to his game? It makes the defense respect his jump shot, of course, but particularly when Powell is at the 5, it unlocks a totally new aspect to his game: putting the ball on the floor and attacking closeouts. Slow-footed centers simply cannot keep up in space with a player as athletic as Powell, so if he can continue to knock down the jumpers and then mix in some dribble moves once in a while, he can become one of the more dynamic centers in the league.

Powell has the physical makeup and athletic ability to have a super-efficient season, a la Brandan Wright during his time with the Mavericks, and if he continues to hit the mid-range jumper, he could become one of the premier backup big men in the NBA very quickly.

A.J. Hammons

This was easily Hammons’ most impressive showing of the exhibition season to this point, as the rookie big man scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds, and blocked one shot. Each of his four buckets came on jump shots, one of which was almost a fallaway in the mid-post. Hammons had an advanced offensive skill set, particularly on the block.

Where he’s really shined so far, however — and where he can separate himself at this level — is in the mid-range game. He has an easy jump shot and has demonstrated he can stretch his range out to as far as 22 feet with relative consistency.

Hammons is a true 7-footer and already possesses a soft touch on the inside and a pretty jumper from the outside. One wonders if he can expand his range to the 3-point line sooner than later — after all, in the last shot in the above highlight, his heels were on the line at the top of the arc. The Mavericks always want their centers to perform more in the pick-and-roll than in the pick-and-pop, but if the 24-year-old Hammons is eventually able to do both, that’s even better. That’s what makes him such a tantalizing offensive prospect.

The thing all three of these centers have in common is they can finish on the inside, but they can also all position themselves 20-25 feet from the basket and succeed. Bogut’s passing and Powell and Hammons’ shooting ability gives the Mavericks the luxury of playing 5-out basketball whenever they want, meaning all five players are on the perimeter. That leaves what feels like miles of space for the opposing defense to cover, all without a center to protect the rim because he’s pulled out to the 3-point line. Combined with the unprecedented effect Dirk Nowitzki has on opponents’ spacing, the Mavericks could potentially have more space to work with on offense than any team not named Golden State.

It’s still obviously very early, though, and those are steep claims no make. There’s no guarantee Powell will continue to make half his mid-range jumpers, even if they’re all basically wide-open. The rotation at center is set to change at least a bit, too, once Mejri returns to action — which should be soon, per Rick Carlisle — but Mejri is imposing at the rim on both ends of the floor, so the Mavs will happily sacrifice just a bit of spacing if it leads to dunks. But for a team whose biggest area of need this summer was center, the Mavericks appear to have turned a weakness into a significant strength.

Anderson slims down, Powell beefs up ahead of 2016-17 season

Bedgear Training Camp Practice Report: Justin Anderson

Mavs F Justin Anderson weighs in on tomorrow's preseason opener against New Orleans.

Justin Anderson played at a heavier weight last season than his teammate Dwight Powell. That fact might seem a little strange at face value, given Anderson played shooting guard and small forward for the Mavs, while Powell spent most of his time at power forward.

But that is no more.

Anderson, entering his second NBA season, has trimmed his weight about 10 pounds, down to 228, while the third-year man Powell has put on 15 pounds to get up to 245.

It’s an effort by both to be prepared for whatever Rick Carlisle has in mind for them this season, and that’s about as specific a plan as they have right now. Mavs training camp, presented by bedgear, only began on Tuesday and they’ve yet to play a preseason game, so while the coach might have an initial rotation in mind, as we’ve learned from watching the Mavericks over the years, everything is subject to change once the games begin.

“Coach is a guru at what he does,” Anderson said, “so he’ll figure out the best way to fit the pieces to the puzzle.”

The key to trimming and gaining weight, of course, is doing so while not compromising a player’s greatest strengths. Anderson’s physicality around the rim was one of the stronger elements of his game during his rookie season, and that’s an asset the Mavs won’t want him to lose, no matter which position he’s playing. A more slender Powell, meanwhile, was quite quick for a player his size in his first two seasons in Dallas. But both players have said they like where they’re at physically despite the changes, with Powell describing the weight he’s gained as “useful” (i.e. muscle, not fat).

“Versatility” has been a big buzzword around this team so far. Anderson, Powell, and prized free agent acquisition Harrison Barnes are all capable of defending two or even three positions, while Wesley Matthews showed similar capabilities in his first campaign with the Mavericks. Deron Williams can defend either guard position, as can Devin Harris.

This is a team built to switch on defense and force matchup issues on offense. In combination with walking mismatch and No. 6 all-time scorer Dirk Nowitzki, a bevy of combo players at Carlisle’s disposal could create new options offensively that Dallas hasn’t been able to explore in the past.

The small-ball revolution has completely taken over the NBA, which leads many to believe that Barnes will spend much of his playing time at power forward, particularly when Nowitzki is off the floor. That leaves room for the slimmed-down Anderson to slide in the rotation next to Barnes and Matthews, giving the Mavericks a trio of long, tenacious defenders on the outside, each capable of defending multiple positions.

“We’re all perimeter defenders, but we can all guard 4s, and even 5s in some cases as well,” Anderson said. “We’re pretty versatile. As far as guarding, it’ll help us with switching. It’ll help us with the communication level, because you know how passionate Wes is, how loud I am, and how smart HB is. We have so many different elements that are gonna come together.”

While Anderson and Matthews didn’t spend a huge amount of time playing together last season (just 214 minutes, according to NBA Stats, and most of those came out of necessity once Chandler Parsons went down due to injury) the belief is Anderson has progressed his game enough to earn a consistent rotation spot this season. That’s even more true if the Mavericks commit to the slow-down, grind-it-out style they used in the final nine games of last season. Anderson was very valuable during that stretch, acting as a shooter on offense and a supporting rim protector defensively.

Sliding Barnes to power forward creates all sorts of lineup possibilities for the Mavericks. Andrew Bogut, Salah Mejri, Powell, or even Dirk Nowitzki could play center next to Barnes, each big man providing different options on offense. And, depending on which point guard plays, each unit could do totally different things. We could see lightning-quick pace, slow-down basketball, and everything else in between.

Bedgear Training Camp Practice Report: Dwight Powell

Mavs F Dwight Powell weighs in on tomorrow's preseason game against the Pelicans.

But the more Barnes plays power forward, the fewer minutes remain to be had at that position for Powell, Quincy Acy, and others on the roster. That means Powell could potentially slide up to the center spot against some opponents, especially those who play small, hence the weight gain.

Should Powell see much time at center — just 29 percent of his minutes came at that spot last season, per Basketball-Reference.com — he’d conceivably be a dangerous lob threat in the spread pick-and-roll game the Mavs’ second unit has run for several years. While he might lack the size of many NBA centers, his plan is to make up for it with athleticism and explosiveness, which could cause defenses serious problems.

“The speed of the game will obviously pick up, so I get a chance to run and get out and get ahead of the defense,” Powell said. “I can use my speed to set on-catch, quicker ball screens, and in those situations I’ll be rolling. It’s fun to get lobs and be that guy down the middle.”

His role, however, hasn’t been completely defined yet, and it’s safe to suspect it will remain a fluid situation as the season wears on. Carlisle is never one to stick with a plan for the plan’s sake, and that flexibility has led to some zany-seeming lineups over the years which have actually worked well for the Mavericks. Perhaps Powell will be a full-time center, or maybe he’ll regularly slide in between both the 4 and 5 to play next to Nowitzki, Bogut, Mejri, or someone else.

The message, basically, is for every player to be up for whatever. Wesley Matthews joked at Media Day that the addition of Barnes allows him to finally defend his position, shooting guard, after he guarded all up and down the lineup last season. That’s been a common theme in Dallas throughout Carlisle’s tenure. Players are expected to prepare for any and every role imaginable, because you never quite know what’s going to be expected in a game.

Anderson shed some weight to be ready for his role, while Powell gained some. That’s a start for both. The Mavs have two preseason games in the next three days, so after those we should have a better idea of just how useful that weight will be for them this season.

Mavericks sign forward-center Dwight Powell

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have signed forward-center Dwight Powell. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Powell (6-11, 240) holds career averages of 5.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 12.5 minutes per game in 98 games (two starts) with Boston and Dallas. He averaged 5.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 14.4 minutes per game in 69 games (two starts) with the Mavericks last season.

Powell was acquired by Dallas along with Rajon Rondo on Dec. 18, 2014, in a deal that sent Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick to Boston.

The 6-11 Canadian was selected to play for the World Team at the 2016 BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend.

A former standout at Stanford, Powell was originally drafted by Charlotte with the 45th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, before having his draft rights traded along with Brendan Haywood to Cleveland in exchange for Scotty Hopson and cash considerations. On Sept. 25, 2014, Powell was dealt to Boston along with Malcolm Thomas, Erik Murphy, John Lucas III, two future second-round picks and a trade exception in exchange for Keith Bogans and two future second-round picks.

As a senior at Stanford, Powell was named All-Pac-12 First Team while averaging 14.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He was also named Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Dwight Powell reflects on his early days on the court as he gives youth one of their own

Griggs Park Court Dedication

Dwight Powell, Rolando Blackman, assistant coach Jamahl Mosley, and the Mavs Foundation unveiled a new court at Griggs Park in Uptown.

The winter months in Toronto were tough for Mavs forward Dwight Powell during his childhood. Outdoor basketball courts across the city would be covered in snow, ice, or both, which limited the chances he and his friends had at getting a good game in on the weekend. They would wait, and wait, and wait for spring.

“And as soon as that first sunny day came, it was 7 a.m. Saturday morning and we were hunting,” he said. “Hunting for runs, hunting for courts like this.”

The brand-new court “like this” he’s referring to can be found in Griggs Park, a historic 8-acre park in Uptown. On Tuesday Powell reflected on his younger days in front of a group of children from the Roseland Boys & Girls Club as the Mavs Foundation unveiled the floor. One, a teenager sporting a Mavericks shirt and Miami Heat shorts — Powell would chide him for it, of course — would later beat the Mavs forward in a dramatic game of knockout.

Powell’s message to the kids: Take advantage of the court. Use it to develop relationships. Use it to become closer to the community.

“We played with people from all different walks of life, all different faiths, and all different skin colors,” he said of his early days in Toronto. “I felt it really brought my community closer to me. It made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself. At the time I didn’t realize, but when I look back and think about the relationships that I made on the courts just like this at the age of 12, 13, it ended up being lifelong relationships. I’m grateful for that, because it created an opportunity for me to fall in love with this game that’s given me everything and provided for my family.”

The Griggs court is the 19th in North Texas built by the Mavs Foundation in the last 20 years. The foundation has granted nearly $3.5 million to other local non-profit organizations serving children, women, and families. It’s also contributed reading and learning centers to several schools and communities throughout the Metroplex.

Mavs legend Rolando Blackman also spoke publicly to the children, then brought them together afterward and gave an intense, impassioned speech on how pursuing an education could change their lives for the better. Born in Panama, Blackman didn’t speak a word of English when he arrived in the United States during his childhood, growing up in Brooklyn before playing college ball at Kansas State and eventually setting the all-time Dallas franchise scoring record. If there’s anyone who can relate to these kids, it’s Blackman.

Like Powell, Blackman presented the new court as an opportunity for the children to come together in one place and grow both as individuals and a community as a whole. The court is a gift, he said, and it’s up to them to decide how it will be used.

“What are you going to do with it?” he challenged them. “What is your charge, your responsibility, your fire in life to be able to move yourself forward so that you too can become a point of light, to be able to create for the community that you want to live in, and be able to advance yourself and become successful people?”

Point taken, both by the kids and also the adults in attendance. Blackman’s passion is contagious and legendary — his cry of “confidence, baby, confidence!” while knocking down a game-tying free throw with no time on the clock in 1987 still stands out as one of the greatest moments in NBA All-Star Game history — and spending just five minutes around him at an event like this is enough to inspire a crowd.

Basketball courts are meant for basketball, and basketball is supposed to be fun. But both Powell and Blackman suggested to the Roseland Boys & Girls Club that there is much more to the game than smiling and exercise. The game provides an opportunity to become part of something greater than themselves.

More than anything, Anderson and Powell contribute athleticism in win at Denver

His Mavs were playing on the second night of a back-to-back against a team with a significant athletic advantage against the typical starting lineup. So Rick Carlisle took a chance on his young players, Justin Anderson and Dwight Powell, and the move paid off.

Before last night, Anderson and Powell had a combined one NBA start between them. Powell, acquired last season via trade with Boston, had never started an NBA game. A power forward by conventional standards, he started at center. Anderson, meanwhile, played both shooting guard and small forward, having also played some 4 in the last couple weeks. This is the time of year for teams hoping to make the playoffs when anything goes, and last night was a perfect example of what can happen when young guys take advantage of the opportunity to make an impact.

Powell scored a career-high 16 points, adding seven rebounds and a pair of steals. Anderson contributed 11 points, four boards, two assists, two blocks, and a steal. Both made high-energy plays throughout the game and certainly contributed to a vital Mavs win.

More than anything, though, the two players matched — and even surpassed — the Nuggets’ athleticism. The Mavs will admit they don’t have the most athletic roster in the NBA, so matching up with teams like Denver has been difficult this season, as those clubs have speed and explosiveness all across the roster, particularly in the frontcourt. Dallas has collectively played more of a ground-bound game this season, but inserting Anderson and Powell into the starting group injected some hops into the team.

Anderson stands only 6-foot-6, but he has a 6-foot-11-plus wingspan and last summer at the Combine flaunted a 43-inch max vertical — the fifth-highest on record at the Combine, according to DraftExpress. One could easily make the argument that wingspan and length matter more in today’s league than height, and here’s an example of how.

Will Barton thinks he has a decent look at a three-point shot, but Anderson’s length and anticipation skills not only put him in to contest the shot, but he actually blocks it.

This was the second trey Anderson has swatted in his last three games, after blocking a Klay Thompson attempt Friday night at Golden State. There’s no easy way to count the number of three-point attempts which are blocked, but only 75 other players in the league have blocked multiple three-pointers this season, according to Basketball-Reference. Many of those who qualified are guards that play every game and have therefore contested hundreds of 3s this season. Anderson, meanwhile, hasn’t yet reached the 500-minute mark in 2015-16. There’s no telling how many he’ll be able to block once his workload increases.

He also rejected center Nikola Jokic on a point-blank layup attempt, once again displaying his length and anticipation skills, but adding in a tremendous vertical leap for good measure.

Jokic is 6-foot-10 and one of the most athletic centers in the NBA. Anderson, 6-foot-6, casts his shot aside like it’s nothing. That’s a special play.

Anderson also finished with four dunks, becoming the first Mavs non-center to throw down four or more in a game since Shawn Marion in April 2010. Marquis Daniels is the only other Dallas wing since 2001 with at least four dunks in a game, according to Basketball-Reference. Anderson has practically unheard-of athleticism as a wing for this team.

Then there’s Powell, who stands 6-foot-11 with a 35-inch vertical leap. That’s an awfully solid combination for a big man in today’s league, as his size gives him the ability to play center while his quickness permits him to play power forward. Versatility is everything in this league.

The second-year big man works harder on his game than perhaps anyone else in the organization not named Dirk Nowitzki, although Powell often stays after practice even longer than the German. He’s worked to add a center’s game to his power forward skill set, and the results have been fruitful. He’s improved this season by leaps and bounds when it comes to finishing at and around the rim, and that was evident last night.

This is a pretty standard pick-and-roll play, but what sets it apart from what we’re used to seeing is the aggression with which Powell attacks the rim. He makes the catch, steps 1-2, and launches himself toward the rim.

There aren’t many players in the league who can contest that shot. Powell got downhill quickly and attacked the rim with force. That’s a textbook finish in the pick-and-roll from the 24-year-old.

Powell also possesses a very high motor — that is, he plays hard and has a high in-game energy level. Combined with his athleticism, Powell finds himself in a position to make plays that probably no one else on the roster can. (Except, of course, for Anderson.) Take this example. Watch where Powell is on the floor as Wesley Matthews attempts the three-pointer.

He’s almost 40 feet from the rim by the time Matthews makes the catch, steps back, and launches the shot. But no one on the Nuggets puts a body on the crashing Powell, and he throws down a fierce put-back dunk. This is a 6-foot-11 center covering all of that ground in practically no time at all.

Anderson’s two blocks saved the Mavericks at least two points defensively, and potentially five. Meanwhile, Powell’s put-back dunk gave the Mavs two points they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Little plays like that can make the difference between a win and a loss, and over the course of an 82-game season, more and more plays like those can really be worth something in the standings.

There’s much more to basketball than making cool highlight reel plays, of course. Anderson and Powell have spent all season working on fitting into the system, playing with confidence, and furthering their understanding of basketball at the NBA level. Carlisle has said throughout the season a young player’s biggest challenge is adjusting to the speed of the game and grasping the mental side of it. What Powell and Anderson both showed last night is they’re already not only prepared to meet the physical demands of this league, but that they exceed them. As they continue to develop into more well-rounded, savvy players, the future can only grow brighter.

As the season winds down, it will be interesting to see whether their roles expand, contract, or stay the same. Will they start again Wednesday night against New York? Will they continue playing 20-plus minutes? Carlisle hasn’t shied away from sticking to a rotation change that works, so we’ll just have to wait and see. One thing’s for sure, though, as we learned last night: Anderson and Powell will be ready, whatever the case may be.

Un paso adelante (One Step Forward)

Ser traspasado no debe ser fácil para un jugador NBA. Menos para uno recién llegado a la liga. Imagina ahora que eres un rookie elegido en la segunda ronda del Draft y en los siguientes seis meses te traspasan tres veces.

Eso vivió Dwight Powell en su primer medio año como profesional. En su mock draft DraftExpress lo colocaba al final de la segunda ronda, pero los Charlotte Bobcats lo seleccionaron antes, con el pick 45. Menos de dos días después vivía su primer traspaso, en el que llegó a los Cleveland Cavaliers. Powell firmó su contrato rookie con Cleveland a finales de agosto, pero un mes después volvía a poner rumbo a otra ciudad, en esta ocasión Boston. Allí pasó dos meses y medio antes de ser traspasado a Dallas.

En la rueda de prensa del traspaso de Rajon Rondo y Dwight Powell, Mark Cuban aseguró que los Dallas Mavericks habían considerado comprar una segunda ronda para hacerse con él, y que habían exigido su presencia en el traspaso. Después de tanto movimiento, Powell había llegado a un lugar donde le querían y estaban dispuestos a invertir tiempo en él.

“Sabe lanzar, sabe rebotear, sabe defender”; dijo Cuban entonces. “Es un cuatro abierto en muchos sentidos, puede ser un cinco abierto en otros. Sabe lanzar, y por eso es por lo que está aquí, por eso lo queríamos”.

Powell pasó sus cuatro años de carrera universitaria en Stanford, siendo una pieza muy importante en la rotación del equipo en sus dos últimos años. Su temporada junior fue probablemente la mejor, promediando 14.9 puntos, 8.4 rebotes, con un 46.7 por ciento en tiros de campo y un 45.5 por ciento en triples. En su temporada senior su acierto bajó, y unido a la amplia competencia de hombres altos que había en la segunda ronda del draft, cayó al puesto 45.

Como proyecto de jugador, los scouts tenían muy claro la faceta que debía mejorar, y esa era la consistencia en su lanzamiento. Las capacidades atléticas para la defensa, el rebote y el contraataque ya estaban ahí, pero será su habilidad para trabajarse un lanzamiento consistente será lo que determine cómo de buena será su carrera en la NBA.

Por eso, después de una primera temporada en Dallas con pocos minutos pero algunas actuaciones prometedoras, el canadiense decidió que en verano se emplearía a fondo para hallar ese lanzamiento seguro de media distancia, olvidándose por el momento del triple, todo ello mientras contribuía a su selección nacional en el Fiba Americas. Powell entró en el equipo jugándose un puesto en la plantilla final, y su rendimiento fue tan bueno que se convirtió en un fijo de la rotación de Jay Triano hasta que se lesionó el codo.

Precisamente esa lesión en el codo le impidió participar en las primeras semanas del training camp de los Dallas Mavericks, pero en cuanto pudo pisar la pista junto al resto de sus compañeros, la progresión que había tenido durante el verano se hizo evidente. En la primera parte de la temporada, hasta Navidad, su porcentaje de acierto de media distancia entre las zonas laterales y el tiro libre era de un 47.8 por ciento.

Powell Jumper

Con una temporada de novato tan atípica, con tanto cambio y adaptación, básicamente podríamos decir que la 2015-16 es la segunda temporada rookie de Dwight Powell. Por eso no sorprende que tuviera su ‘rookie wall’ particular en cuanto a porcentajes de acierto durante el mes de enero.

“Lo más importante es que tienes que permanecer preparado”, dijo Powell en uan entrevista reciente en SiriusXM. “Tienes que concentrarte en el hecho de que es una temporada larga y que en 82 partidos pueden pasar muchas cosas. Tienes que saber que tu oportunidad va a llegar en algún momento, y es tu responsabilidad estar preparado. Yo aún estoy aprendiendo el proceso y desarrollándome como jugador, mejorando mi juego independientemente de los minutos que tenga, y preparándome para la siguiente oportunidad”.

La parte positiva es que su lanzamiento no es lo único que ha mejorado en los últimos meses. Si hay algo por lo que Powell puede jugar incluso en sus peores días en el lanzamiento, es por su mejora tanto en el rebote como en la defensa. Este es el impacto defensivo de Powell en sus rivales, según los datos de NBA.com.

Distancia Acierto habitual Acierto permitido Variación
Menos de 2 metros / -6 feet 59.3% 55.8% -3.4%
Menos de 3 metros / -10 feet 53.8% 53.3% -0.4%
Más de 4.5 metros / +15 feet 37.5% 30.7% -6.8%

Su capacidad atlética y rapidez lo convierten en un jugador ideal para defender a interiores ágiles. Lo pasa peor cuando se ve emparejado con pívots fuertes, pero la liga cada vez está evolucionando más hacia los interiores más bajos, menos pesados y que saben hacer más cosas, y el jugador de los Mavs se adapta muy bien a ese tipo de jugador. Uno de los que pudo vivir los progresos defensivos de Dwight Powell de cerca fue Anthony Davis en la última victoria de los Mavericks en New Orleans.

Powell Defense

En cuanto al rebote, su evolución podemos observarla a simple vista y también en los números. Su colocación es mejor, hace un mayor esfuerzo por cerrar a los rivales, y su timing a la hora de saltar también ha mejorado. Aquí vemos su evolución estadística con respecto a la temporada pasada. Se trata del porcentaje de rebotes que captura sobre el total que hay disponibles cuando se encuentra en pista.

Temporada % Ofensivo % Defensivo % Total
2014-15 8.3 14.9 11.6
2015-16 8.9 22.1 15.5

Ese 15.5 por ciento de los rebotes sobre el total que captura Powell es la tercera mejor marca de los Mavs por detrás de Zaza Pachulia y JaVale McGee, y es el octavo mejor porcentaje de la NBA entre rookies y sophomores que hayan jugado un mínimo de 25 partidos esta temporada.

Otra categoría infravalorada en la que el canadiense ha dado un paso adelante es en el acierto cerca del aro. Cuando el ataque de los Mavericks está en manos como las de Chandler Parsons funciona mejor con alguien que sea una amenaza capaz de terminar mates, bandejas y alley-oops con tráfico, y Powell hasta ahora lo está haciendo.

Año Porcentaje de acierto en al ero
2014-15 56.7% (17/30)
2014-15 64.1% (93/145)

**Media de la liga – 54.9%

Este crecimiento como jugador viene acompañado de un lógico aumento en sus minutos. Powell ya ha triplicado sus marcas de la temporada pasada en todas sus estadísticas, y es el octavo jugador sophomore de la Conferencia Oeste que más minutos ha disputado este año. Por poner un ejemplo conocido para los fans de los Mavericks, Powell acumula más minutos este año que los que llevaba hasta el All Star Brandan Wright en sus dos primeras temporadas en Dallas. El trabajo de Dwight no solo ha sido recompensado por los Mavs, también por la liga con su elección para el Rising Stars Challenge del All Star.

“Primero y antes de todo, definitivamente es un honor formar parte de algo así, especialmente del All-Star Weekend”, dijo Powell. “Y la guinda es que sea en Toronto. Es un sentimiento muy bueno y es excitante. No sé si voy a ser capaz de conseguir entradas suficientes para todos los que me las han pedido, pero estará bien tener a la familia y los amigos aquí para apoyarme”.

En su primera oportunidad real de hacerse con un rol en la rotación de Rick Carlisle, Dwight Powell está demostrando que puede ser un jugador muy a tener en cuenta de cara al presente y al futuro de los Dallas Mavericks.