The Dallas Mavericks need more from their bench, and it starts with more Dwight Powell. Sorry, Charlie.
The Dallas Mavericks re-tooled their second unit once again this offseason, but with the return of J.J. Barea and Devin Harris, the preseason play of John Jenkins, and the Brandan Wright-like potential of Jeremy Evans and JaVale McGee, many had high hopes for what the bench could accomplish.
So far though, the reserves as a unit have been disappointing.
Jenkins and Evans haven’t played well enough to garner consistent minutes from head coach Rick Carlisle. Barea is shooting 38% from the floor and is committing twice as many turnovers a game as last season. Harris is shooting 21% from three-point land, down from almost 36% in 2014-15. Charlie Villanueva hasn’t been connecting either, shooting almost 10% worse from long range than last season.
In fact, as it stands through 23 games, the Mavericks’ bench is the worst three-point shooting unit in the league at 25.7%. Look at this shot chart. They’re a below average shooting bench in almost every area other than around the rim.
The only reason the bench is respectable in that area is the lone bright spot for the group: Dwight Powell.
Powell is averaging 9.0 points and 6.5 rebounds a game as the first big man off the bench, and while he still gets bullied down low by bigger opposition on occasion, opts for a lay-up rather than a dunk far too often, and is good for fumbling away a pass or two a game, played a big part in Dallas’ mostly successful start.
Powell’s energy, athleticism, and tenacity are traits the roster sorely needs, and attributes that have helped the Mavericks stay competitive on the boards all season to this point. He’s grabbing over 25% of available defensive rebounds while on the floor, right behind team-leading rebounder and double-double machine Zaza Pachulia, and checks in at second on the team behind Dirk Nowitzki in win shares per 48 minutes.
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Interestingly enough though, Powell has seen his role in the rotation diminished recently. In the first 13 games of the season Powell was playing over 22 minutes a night and performing pretty well. The Mavericks were 9-4.
Since then Powell has played just 16.7 minutes a night, and predictably his numbers (other than FT%) have dropped. The Mavericks have gone 4-6. The reason for Powell’s decline in minutes is clear: JaVale McGee was activated for action in Dallas’ fourteenth game.
Powell isn’t the team’s savior by any stretch of the imagination. But he’s been the best player off the Dallas bench, and while giving McGee time on the floor to work him into things is important for games down the road, it shouldn’t come at the expense of winning games now.
Villanueva has seen his minutes take a hit since McGee starting suiting up too, and nightly match ups factor in as well, but if it means more Dwight Powell, Carlisle might want to look into trimming the Flamethrower’s time further.