While the core of the Dallas Mavericks is solidified with Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr., the remainder of the team is battling for minutes in training camp. One of the most interesting storylines to watch is the competition for the starting center spot, which could be earned by a variety of different players.
Although he will play quite a bit at center, Porzingis is slated to start the season at power forward, as confirmed by head coach Jason Kidd at media day.
With that in mind, Kidd was asked on day two of training camp who will be filling that starting center slot. He wouldn’t commit to anyone outright earning the spot, but he did say that Dwight Powell has opened training camp in that role.
A lot could change over the next few weeks, but Powell was who the coaching staff liked to start camp as the starting center.
Powell suffered a major Achilles injury in January of 2020. At the time, he was having a great season and averaging 9.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He was a primary starter, getting the nod in 37 of the 40 games to that point in the season.
Upon his return from injury in the 2020-21 season, Powell saw a significant decrease in his role. After playing 26.5 minutes per game before his injury, he only was on the court for 16.7 minutes per contest last season. Additionally, he started in only 19 of the 58 games he competed in.
With this decreased role, his production also naturally dropped off. In the 2020-21 season, Powell averaged just 5.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.
Regardless of his role, Powell has always been an efficient scorer. While he’s only a 29.0% 3-point shooter on low volume in his career, he’s converted on 62.9% of his 2-point attempts. In fact, in the 2019-20 season, he shot 71.6% on his attempts inside the 3-point line.
Although somewhat undersized for a center at 6-foot-10, Powell is also a solid defender. It’s still unclear is he can get back to the springy athlete he was prior to the injury, but he’s still got the athleticism to be disruptive on that end of the floor.
If Powell is indeed the starter at the beginning of the season, it will be a huge opportunity for him to begin a bounce-back season.
There will be plenty of competition over the next few weeks and throughout the season for Powell. While he’s the starting center as of today, a lot can change quickly.
For starters, the Mavericks could ultimately change their mindset and start Porzingis at center. Additionally, Maxi Kleber has the ability to play center when needed, sliding up a spot from power forward.
In terms of true centers on the roster, Dallas also has Moses Brown, Willie Cauley-Stein and Boban Marjanovic. However, it’s highly unlikely that Marjanovic is a starter on this team.
That brings Powell’s true competition to Cauley-Stein and Brown. Both of these guys are traditional centers who do their work around the rim and rarely step out to score from outside of the paint.
Last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Brown was a starter for a good portion of the season and averaged 8.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. At 7-foot-2, he’s extremely efficient in the minutes that he gets on the floor.
Cauley-Stein spent last season with the Mavericks, averaging 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in 17.1 minutes per game. The 7-footer started in 16 of the 53 games he played in.
Dallas has a ton of depth at the center position, but nobody is the clear best option. However, for now, Powell will fill that void as training camp kicks off.