Mavs D-Powell: A B-Wright Starter Kit?

DALLAS - What if the answer to the Mavs' backup center problem - caused by the Rondo trade (and B-Wright's departure) is about to be solved by the Rondo trade (and Dwight Powell's arrival)?



As we’ve often addressed at DB.com, the Rondo trade addressed a number of the Mavericks’ most glaring weaknesses. Since the trade, the Dallas Mavericks have become considerably better at perimeter defense and defending the three-point line.

The other side of that coin is the damage felt from losing Brandan Wright. The Mavericks are now extremely thin at center and they have been getting crushed on the glass since the trade. Greg Smith is the only experienced center on the roster behind Tyson Chandler and coach Rick Carlisle has made it clear that he doesn’t trust Smith to play consistent minutes because he is a non-factor on offense and can’t protect the rim. Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki (moonlighting at center) can’t play the entire game. In fact, every bit of rest that can be afforded to them before the playoffs could pay huge dividends. Any lineup with Nowitzki or Charlie Villanueva at center creates interesting mismatches on offense, but is destined to get dominated in the rebounding category, and on defense, too.

And so we see why Wright was such an important piece to the Mavericks’ puzzle. He was not a dominant rebounder, but he was competent and allowed the Mavericks to continue to play at fast pace and he stayed in constant motion on offense. He was not an excellent shot-blocker, but he was certainly a threat with his leaping ability and long arms. He was a unique and qualified big man to play behind either Chandler and Nowitzki and he developed great chemistry with all of the Mavericks’ guards. (It’s hard not to fantasize about what he and Rondo could have done. A story for another day.)

Ultimately, Wright is one of the most athletic players in the NBA and this year, during that early period here, he utilized that athleticism more than he ever has.

If Dwight Powell brings anything to the table it’s ... athleticism, as he demonstrated while at an 2014 NBA Draft Workout in Las Vegas:



Powell, a rookie, was a mere throw-in in the Rondo trade. That's not to say Dallas failed to see potential there; remember Mark Cuban's gushing on the night of the trade's completion?

"He can shoot threes, he can rebound, he can defend," Cuban said. "He's a stretch-4 in a lot of respects, a stretch-5 in a lot of respects, ... and so that's why he's here. That's why we wanted him."

Ahh, OK. But what if only a sliver of that is true?

Powell is probably a natural power forward, but at 6-10 (almost 6-11) he can and suddenly is the fill-in at center. Like Wright, he doesn’t have the strength and size of a lot of NBA centers, but could potentially make up for that with athleticism.

Powell had played a total of 17 minutes as a Maverick before the Mavericks’ first of back-to-back games against the Nuggets in which Dallas sat Rondo, Nowitzki and Chandler. He played 29 minutes in that game. It would make sense to give the rookie a lot of run in a game with three of the team’s stars in suits. But Powell showed something to Carlisle in those 29 minutes, scoring 11 points off of 5-8 shooting to go along with five rebounds, two assists and a block in the loss.

Said Rick after that game: "I like Powell. He showed some toughness. He's athletic. And he can shoot.''

With Chandler and Dirk out, Powell’s minutes were a necessity, but with both players suited up for Friday night’s rematch there was no certainty that Powell would even see the floor. For the time being, however, it seems Powell earned a little bit of faith from Carlisle. He entered the game in the first quarter Friday, coming in for Chandler. He also came in the game in the third quarter. He played a total of 14 minutes and it appears he is currently the Mavericks’ backup center.

He scored four points, grabbed a rebound and had two steals. He was active on both ends of the floor and held his ground boxing out the much stronger and more physical J.J. Hickson.

He showed glimpses of some of the things he did with the Celtics' Developmental League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, where in four games he averaged 21.5 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting 59.3 percent. Powell was that same guy in his single trip to Frisco, where for the Texas Legends he was good for a 26-pooint, 21-rebound effort in the team’s 153-131 routing of the Reno Bighorns in early January.

The original plan post-trade was for Powell to spend a lot of time in Frisco. That plan is changing.

What Powell brings on both ends of the court is athleticism and movement. At his core, this is what Wright brought to the table. Powell is much, much less refined than Wright, but that athleticism and movement is something the more talented Mavericks can work with. ("Springy'' is a word Mavs people used for B-Wright and Powell has some of that.) Rondo, Ellis, Parsons, Dirk and Harris all demand a lot of attention and need active players around them. Powell may be suited to plug in with them because whatever he contributes he can do so quickly. Someone like Greg Smith having the ball for more than three seconds is a waste of what Dallas is capable of on offense.

Powell is, I say with optimism, someone with the potential to be a poor man’s Wright. It’s ridiculous to think he will perform at Wright’s level. ... Especially because the pedigree isn't there. Wright was a stud at North Carolina and was a first-round guy. Powell played at Stanford, but is a native Canadian (not that there's anything wrong with that) and a second-rounder.

So don't expect to be able to hold Powell's stats up to the numbers Wright produced earlier this year; he'd appeared in five games for the Celtics, averaging 1.8 points in 1.8 minutes. But Powell doesn’t need to represent a strength here as much as he needs to help negate a weakness.

Since the Rondo trade Dallas has looked like a different team as soon as either Dirk or Chandler has to sit. They looked like a worse team as soon as one of them sat, to put it frankly. When Wright was on the roster the team had a bit more continuity throughout a given game. They could play at a high level for 48 minutes.

There was a glimpse of that with Powell on Friday night against the Nuggets. It’s only been two games in which Powell has played any meaningful minutes, but it is a promising sign. If he does in fact continue to get minutes then there will surely be more to nitpick, but he looks like a player Carlisle can use.

Smile

Since trading Rondo, we’ve all been searching for the answer at the backup center position. Jermaine O’Neal coming out of retirement seemed the most promising option when we analyze the potential numbers and it’s far from a guarantee he can help (Premium readers know of the "kink'' there.)

Perhaps the answer for what left when Rondo came, came alongside Rondo from the start.

"The Eye Test''

You look at a handful of games before entering the weekend and you look at the advanced stats in those games and you wonder ... is Dallas failing "The Eye Test'' here? Mike Marshall examines.

Put-downs

The Friday win over the Nuggets was all about slapdowns and put-downs, in video form. Watch the Chandler-on-Chandler violence, Tyson's revenge and Dirk putting Skin Wade and everyone else in their place via some Video quickies.

Thanks, Apple Moving DFW

DFW customers like you perennially vote Apple Moving DFW as the very best in the business. If you are preparing to make a move, big or small, please contact our friends at Apple Moving DFW and tell 'em DB.com sent you!

Mavs at Memphis Monday

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and FOX Sports Southwest brings you basketball on the special day with Mavs at Memphis -- home of The National Civil Rights Museum -- with a 3:30 p.m. pregame featuring Dana, Bob and Fish, and then tipoff at 4.

Smile

The Final Word

I'm really looking forward to the opportunity, but I also want to work as hard as I can to stay here and show my value and my worth to this team." - Dwight Powell.


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