Dallas Mavericks' longtime center finds success in new role

Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans
Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell has been a fixture in the rotation since he came to Dallas in the trade centered around Rajon Rondo back in 2014. Oddly enough, as a throw-in in the deal, the second-rounder flourished in Dallas. Even more so than his counterpart, Rondo.

So much success in fact that Powell is currently the longest-tenured Maverick, with over $70 million in career earnings. He recently re-upped this offseason, agreeing to a $12 million pact to remain in Dallas for an additional three seasons.

While Powell has exceeded expectations coming into the league as a mid-second-round draft pick, fans have soured on Powell in recent seasons.

Dallas Mavericks' longtime center finds success in new role

In 2017-18, Powell was forced into a starting role and has been a full-time or part-time starter ever since. In his first couple of seasons with more than 20 minutes per game, he excelled.

From 2017 to 2019, he averaged 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Over a per-36 minute span, that equates to 16 points and a little over nine rebounds per game. Powell proved to be a serviceable starter. However, he quickly wore out his welcome.

Despite numerous attempts to upgrade at center over the years, the Mavs have been forced to rely on Powell as the man in the middle. And throughout the past couple of seasons, it became apparent an upgrade was necessary.

In the 2023 NBA Draft, Dallas selected Duke big man Dereck Lively II with the 12th overall selection. Although Lively II was billed as a raw prospect, he came in right away as a starter and made a huge difference.

Now, with Lively II in the opening lineup, Powell shifted to the bench. And coming off the pine, he's performed admirably. In only 16.2 minutes per game, Powell is averaging 6.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.7 blocks per game.

The Mavs big man has also played with fantastic efficiency. He's shooting a career-high 74.1 percent from the floor. Powell is also getting to the free-throw line at a high rate, averaging 6.7 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes. And at the line, he's shooting 75.8 percent.

Powell has been an advanced stats darling this year, especially on offense. He leads all players with more than five games played in offensive rating. The next highest player's offensive rating is 13 points below Powell's 172.

Continuing on the trend with players who have appeared in more than five games, Powell ranks ninth in effective field goal percentage. And when assessing stats that hold more merit amongst the top players, Powell remains in the picture.

Powell ranks 18th in the entire league in offensive win shares. Higher than the likes of Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Trae Young, and several other All-Stars.

While Powell has certainly passed the analytic test, he's also passed the eye test. His chemistry with Luka Doncic remains strong. Nearly 80 percent of his baskets are assisted, most by the aforementioned Doncic or the other starting guard, Irving.

All in all, Powell looks like a much better player in a reserve role. No longer is he tasked with defending the opposing team's starting center. He now comes in as an energizer, whose role is to feast on easy baskets and hustle on the defensive end.