Dwight Powell is the poster child for ‘development’ in the NBA and the Mavs should be begging him to opt into his final contract year.
Dwight Powell has had quite the journey with the Dallas Mavericks to get to where we are now. And where we are is a player who is posting 16.7 points a game, shooting 62% from the floor and 46.4% from 3PT range since the All Star Break. He is ostensibly the Mavs second best player in that stretch, even though a strong argument could be made for rookie Jalen Brunson who is right there with him. Powell has a decision to make at the end of the season that will greatly affect the Mavs either way: he can either opt into playing the final year of his contract in Dallas or test the free agency waters which could pay him more to leave the Big D and take his production elsewhere. Although Mavs fans have wanted his money off the books since he got his current contract 3 years ago, his play as of late may have fans swallowing their pride and hoping he stays.
A Little History
The Mavericks received him in a trade with Boston as the throw in piece of the Rajon Rondo trade to Dallas in 2015. And as the Rondo situation worked itself out to be a disaster before the end of the year, Dwight Powell was quietly showing flashes of who he was and what he could do for the Mavericks. And in the summer of 2016, the Mavericks rewarded him with a 4 year, $37M contract that had most, if not all, Mavs fans scratching their heads. As most fans equate contracts with the on court results, there was no clear indication as to why, leading to Powell becoming the target of MFFLs’ ire for any mistake he made.
Powell has perpetually worked his butt of in the gym showing his team and coaching staff that he is all about getting better every day, yet fans didn’t fully see it translate to the court during games. However, it was slowly but surely happening. So slowly, in fact, that you might not have really noticed. Every year with the Mavericks, his numbers have improved across the board. Which is summed up neatly by the stat PER (Player Efficiency Rating) from Basketball Reference that gives a cumulative score for his efforts on the court. For reference, league average is 15.
Two additional items to note here: 1) Powell leads the Mavericks in PER this year (Doncic is next with 19.6) and 2) the TS% stands for True Shooting percentage which has increased year after year also, which is another great way to show his work has paid off for the Mavericks.
As of Late
Lately, Powell has gone completely off the charts with his offensive playmaking and scoring. In the 10 games since the All Star Break, Powell leads the team in minutes/game (32.7), field goal percentage (62.2%), and 3PT percentage (46.4%). He’s also second on the team in points per game (16.7), rebounds (7.0), steals (0.9) and +/- (-1.8).
It’s true, the team has lost 9 of those 10 games, but that can’t be leveled at Powell’s feet. If anything, it would be much, much worse if he weren’t stepping up the way he has. With the trades at the deadline, the remainder of the season is for evaluating what the Mavericks have and the same can be said for Powell. He can use the remainder of the season to see what staying with the Mavericks for at least one more year would do for him. His improvement is such that he could decide he’s ready to leave the nest that raised him to where he is, or he can keep on the road he’s on and improve with a team that should be all but done losing at the start of next season.
What About the Whole Year?
And for naysayers that say that he’s only been good as of late, Powell can prove you wrong there as well. On the season, he’s still shooting 59.1% from the field. Not to mention how exceedingly good he was when he was part of the JJ Barea lead second unit. Because of that lineup, Dwight Powell is 1st in the NBA for the past 2 season in Offensive Rating. In other words, Dwight Powell was the most efficient scorer in the NBA with the playing time he was given for two straight years. He’s ranked top 4 in the NBA in True Shooting percentage as well over that same span. And this year, he is top 10 in the league in Win Shares per 48 minutes, at .211 which is over double the league average. Dwight has been quietly very, very good for Dallas this year and at a price that looks wholly reasonable on this end of the contract.
The Contract Situation
Dwight holds a player option on the final year of his contract, which would be next season. He can either opt to finish out the full term of his contract with Dallas and earn $10.2M next year OR he can opt out of next year’s contract and try to get a longer/bigger one on the open market this summer for any team.
While his contract made less sense on the front end when he was struggling to define his game, now his $10M remaining looks like a steal for the Mavericks. His production versus his cost is handily in the Mavs favor at this point and he’s proven to be a team first player with helping his team foremost on his mind. Powell checks off every box a front office wants in a player they’ve invested time and money in and it will be hard to replace half of what he brings for that price.
It is entirely understandable that some MFFLs see Powell solely as his contract amount in a summer where we want to surround Luka and Porzingis with as big and stellar of teammates as possible. Adding his $10M to the $30M in cap space the Mavericks already have would let them chase any free agent and offer them the Max salary allowed with no questions asked. However, the Mavs have many different avenues to get to a full Max slot without sacrificing something as valuable as Powell. On the open market, Powell’s production and skillset would fetch far more than $10M and probably in the $15-17M range for several years, given his age.
The Mavs have a steal on their hands and have to be hoping he feels loyal to them after all they’ve invested in him.Only time will tell, but we should all be hoping Dwight Powell is a Maverick next year.
Featured Image: The Canadian Press