Dwight Powell is looking forward to this summer. And for distinctly different reasons than the previous summer.
As a free agent with the Dallas Mavericks, Powell went into last off-season with his mind mostly on the business side of basketball and making sure his financial future was going to be intact. While that mindset is perfectly understandable, the basketball side of basketball often gets shelved into the corner during that process.
One year into the four-year, $37 million contract he signed with the Mavericks last summer, Powell enters the off-season free of the worries of free agency and with his mind focused squarely on basketball and on improving his game.
“I’ll be able to kind of just lock in and be in the gym and do everything I need to prepare myself,” Powell said. “And it’ll be a big summer.”
When asked if there were distractions leading up to the signing of his contract, Powell said, “It depends how you define distraction. It’s something that obviously did exist and something that had to be considered and thought of, but it didn’t affect my time in the gym.”
A 6-foot-11, 240-pound center/power forward, Powell was used mainly as a backup power forward who played alongside center Andrew Bogut early last season. That worked well, because it helped the Mavericks with their rebounding woes.
I’ll be able to kind of just lock in and be in the gym and do everything I need to prepare myself. And it’ll be a big summer.
As the season progressed, Powell’s role changed to backup center — with mixed results.
“Because he played almost predominantly (center) all year long, except for the beginning of the year when he would sub and we were playing (Harrison) Barnes kind of how we sub Dirk (Nowitzki) — 6 (minutes) on, (3 minutes) off — Powell would fill in those 3-minute gaps playing with Bogut and some of that,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “We were big and we were a good rebounding team, but we weren’t sending him out to the 3-point line that much.
“Again, that’s a part of his game that needs to come around. He knows it and he’s been busting his tail working on it.”
However, Powell increased his production when he received ample playing time. While playing an average 29.4 minutes in five of the final six games, the three-year veteran averaged 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and shot 31.6 percent from 3-point range.
“Obviously, I had higher expectations for myself and wanted to help this team more and wanted to win more,” Powell said. “Obviously, (the Mavericks’ 33-49 record) wasn’t one we expected, it wasn’t what I expected.
Guys came in ready to work every day and I appreciated that. We had a team of guys that wanted to win and wanted to work hard and wanted to be here, so you can’t ask for more than that.
Powell on the young Mavericks
“I had higher hopes, but I really just want to try and get rid of as much of it as I can and (use it) as motivation for this off-season and work as hard as I can to learn from the mistakes of this year and be better.”
With centers and power forwards across the NBA being asked to develop a 3-point shot, Powell will emphasize that part of his game this off-season.
“That was definitely one of the focuses and continues to be one of the main focuses is expanding my range and continuing to develop in all facets of the game offensively and defensively,” he said. “So it’s a long process and I should keep working at it.”
Powell knows the demands of playing center and power forward are a process with different challenges.
“The differences and similarities are endless, really, on both sides,” he said. “So whatever it takes to help this team win and put myself in situations to be successful and help our team be successful, I’m willing to do whatever role Coach wants me to do if that means continuing to develop really all facets of the game to be ready for those opportunities.”
6.7 Points scored per game by Dwight Powell last season, a career-high in 17.3 minutes a game.
The 25-year-old Powell missed the playoffs for the first time in his career. He was also the second-youngest player on the roster last season, which had eight players 25 or younger.
“Obviously, it’s individuals, they’re different people, so at the end of the day that’s going to be different and their experience levels varied,” Powell said. “Guys came in ready to work every day and I appreciated that.
“We had a team of guys that wanted to win and wanted to work hard and wanted to be here, so you can’t ask for more than that.”