It took more than a year and a half, but Dwight Powell looks like he is finally back.
Around 16 months ago, Powell suffered one of the worst injuries known to a basketball player – a torn Achilles tendon. This injury has claimed the athletism in DeMarcus Cousins, the late Kobe Bryant, Chauncey Billups, Dominique Wilkins, and a litany of other NBA players. Those listed above never returned the same. And early in the 2020-21 NBA season, Powell looked like he would join them. However, in the last month and a half, the trusty Dallas big man has found his footing again after the long recovery.
“Recovery and rehab from this type of injury takes an amazing amount of determination, wherewithal, mental fortitude,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “The challenging thing for Dwight is he is such a go-getter and such a gung-ho guy when it comes to these types of challenges that he had to wait several months before he could even get into the physical part of it.
“But the reality with Achilles injuries is that after they’re repaired there’s a significant length process, and it goes in steps. You hit certain plateaus and you keep going, then you hit another plateau, then you keep going. It appears that he’s very close to reaching the apex of the recovery.”
Before Powell’s devastating injury, he was a constant lob threat – diving to the rim and jumping over would-be defenders. At the start of this season, he clearly lacked that aspect of the game, and his numbers suffered. Yet, in recent weeks, Powell is up to his usual tricks, leading those around him to believe that the worst of his recovery is now in the rearview mirror, and the best of this season lay directly in front of him.
Powell by the Numbers:
On the year, Powell is averaging 5.8 points per game, four rebounds, and one assist. It was the worst statistical output from Powell since the 2015-16 season. However, in the last 10 games, he is averaging 10.4 points and 6.6 rebounds. During that stretch, Dallas is 8-2.
He’s racked up some outstanding box scores in April and May as well. There was the 12-point, 10-rebound, and five-assist performance against the Brooklyn Nets on May 6. On April 24, he played arguably his finest game of the season, scoring 25 points and grabbing nine rebounds in a must-win against the Los Angeles Lakers. And if that is not enough to convince you, against the Cavs on May 9, Powell scored 12 points, snagged nine rebounds, and found his teammates four times for scores. He did that without Luka Doncic on the floor for the majority of the second half.
Powell is back, and I am happy to say it.
He’s no prime DeAndre Jordon or current-day Clint Capela, but Powell’s dives to the rim open the floor up offensively for Dallas. Defenders have to respect him as a lob threat. And in doing so, that is less attention that is paid to Doncic, Jalen Brunson, Tim Hardaway Jr., or any other primary ballhandler Dallas has on the floor.
Within 10 feet from the basket, Powell shoots 66.7 percent. With the added bounce in his step, he can finish through and over defenders in a way he couldn’t do so earlier in the year.
His offensive resurgence has contributed, in no doubt, to the Mavericks’ recent hot streak that has placed the team squarely in the fifth seed.
Consistency is next:
As Dallas gears up for the NBA Playoffs, consistency is the next step for Powell. Can he do this on a high level, for a two-week stretch, against a great opponent, seven times? Will he be a factor on the road in a crucial game five with nothing but pressure surrounding the moment? Does he find ways to contribute that extend beyond the box score, changing the dynamic of a must-win game? Only Powell can answer those questions in time. But judging by how well he’s playing recently, the one certain thing is that he’s finally back to his old tricks on the hardwood.
Feature image via Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports.