With improved outside shooting, Dwight Powell closed ’16-17 strong

2016-17 Exit Interview: Dwight Powell

Mavs F Dwight Powell addresses the media for exit interviews.

DALLAS — Although it was a small sample size to close the 2016-17 schedule, the Dallas Mavericks were encouraged by 25-year-old big man Dwight Powell’s late-season offensive explosion and versatility along the front line entering the summer.

Last summer, Powell signed a reported four-year contract worth $37 million after showing glimpses of what he could do during the ’15-16 season. Powell then produced career-high numbers across the board during his third season in the NBA, averaging 6.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 17.3 minutes an outing while making 77 appearances. But by averaging 13.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 28.3 minutes during the Mavericks’ final four games of the season, Powell now admittedly heads into the summer with plenty of confidence after showcasing his overall ability to close the year.

“That was definitely one of the focuses, and it continues to be one of the focuses,” Powell explained. “Expanding my range and continuing to develop all facets of the game offensive and defensive is a long process, and I’m just going to keep working at it.

“Obviously, I had higher expectations for myself. I wanted to help this team more, and I wanted to win more. … Whatever it takes to help this team win and to put myself in a situation to be successful and help our team be successful, I’m willing to do whatever role [Mavs coach Rick Carlisle] wants me to do. That means continuing to develop really all facets of the game to be ready for those opportunities.”

Powell’s hard work definitely paid off to close the season, seeing a spike in his numbers while being gifted with more playing time by Carlisle. And according to Carlisle, one reason for that late explosion was Powell’s improved three-point shooting to close the season.

Powell finished the season shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 28.4 percent from behind the three-point arc. The 6-foot-11 big man also connected on 33.3 percent from long range during the final six games, taking advantage of his additional minutes at power forward after playing the bulk of his time this season as a backup center. Powell registered a career-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 4-of-8 from three-point range during a 124-111 loss in Phoenix on April 9, grabbing five rebounds, dishing two assists, collecting two steals and recording a block to boot in 32 minutes of action. That said, Carlisle will look for Powell to continue to develop his outside shot this summer while hoping the three-year pro can return more consistent from long range next season.

“I thought Powell continues to really do well with his three-point shooting, which is a really encouraging sign,” Carlisle said following the season.

He added: “He’s gotten a lot better with it. … Again, that’s a part of his game that needs to come around, and he knows that. He’s been busting his tail working on it, but we just haven’t been able to get him the reps in games. And so, again, now is a time we can look at that, and we can get him some of those shots. Young players in many cases are just so excitable that they get in the game for a short period of time and they’re just so hyped up, and it’s difficult to get into a rhythm. I want to see him play a little more extended minutes at the four, ’cause he’s played almost predominantly at five all year long.”

Powell averaged 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per outing in 69 games with the Mavericks during the ’15-16 season before inking a new deal in restricted free agency last July. Prior to that, he was acquired by Dallas along with former point guard Rajon Rondo on Dec. 18, 2014, in a deal that sent Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick and a second-round pick to Boston. The Mavericks then viewed Powell as a multi-positional player when the front office signed the young big man last summer. And to the approval of Mavs owner Mark Cuban, Powell showed signs of filling that role throughout this season. But according to Cuban, Powell has to do more than simply show that he can consistently knock down outside shots in order to maximize his full potential next season.

“He’s got to be consistent like he has been (to close the season) to be a stretch four,” Cuban said while assessing Powell’s play. “The first 70 games, he wasn’t. We wanted him to be, but he wasn’t. But as a roll guy, he’s been amazing. And if he can shoot 35 or more percent from three, that changes his game dramatically. And then he’s just got to improve on the defensive end. You know, I think Dwight leads the league in (bad) calls against him. I mean, it’s not even close, and so we’ve got to talk to the league to find out why he’s the fall guy so often. And then Dwight’s got to improve his shot blocking, because he’s got the length and athletic ability to be able to block more shots and rebounding. But I think he’ll improve in all of those areas. Again, he played more minutes than he ever has, and I don’t think people really recognize that to mentally go from all of a sudden playing four minutes a game for 50-60 games to 20 minutes a game, by the time you get to the end of the season, that’s tough.”

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