DALLAS - When the Dallas Mavericks signed Dwight Powell to a four-year, $37 million contract on July 8, 2016, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
But two years into that deal, Powell has more than proven that he deserves that type of contract.
In 2017-18, Powell's numbers across the board were so impressive that he posted career highs in scoring (8.5), rebounding (5.6), assists (1.2), field goal shooting (59.3 percent) and 3-point field goal shooting (33.3 percent). That led Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson to tip his hat to the four-year veteran from Stanford.
"That contract has been more than fulfilled, and it's not just the player that you see evolving before your very eyes," Nelson said. "It's the leadership in that locker room, and he is a very, very special young man that has taken the next step up.
"And he has earned his way through the G-League, through the old hard knocks, going through summer league situations to make himself a better player, take coaching and criticism in the right way and turning it into positives that we're seeing before our very eyes."
Despite what he was able to accomplish while playing 21.2 minutes per game last season, Powell isn't going around patting himself on the back. On the contrary.
"I think there's a lot left," Powell said. "I think regardless of what the numbers said, I didn't do enough to help us win the games that we wanted to win - the amount of games we wanted to win - so there's a lot of work.
"Nothing slows down for me. The minor improvements that I made I want to continue to see that growth and continue to dedicate the time that I have up until this point to get to where I am."
Powell's numbers were even more inspiring over the last 16 games he played in last season. During that period the 6-11, 240-pounder averaged 10.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and shot 58.8 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from 3-point range.
In all, Powell was more impressed with his 3-point shooting and his ability to stretch the floor than he was with any of his other statistics.
"For me it's a long process and it comes down to reps and experience," he said. "It's been a few years now of developing and then seeing constant movements, but it's a slow grind and it takes time.
"So this is another offseason where I'm going to dedicate as much time as I can to it and continue to try and see improvements."
The Mavs are more than happy to have witnessed the steady improvements Powell has made since they acquired him from the Boston Celtics on Dec. 18, 2014 in a trade that involved Rajon Rondo and Jae Crowder.
"Dwight is, first of all, you're talking about the DNA of what we're looking for in the draft and free agency," Nelson said. "That's why we (gave Powell that contract)."
Nelson said following a Mavs game last season he saw Powell working on his 3-point shot at 11:30 at night. He also said that early the very next morning he noticed that Powell was back on the practice court again - working on his 3-point shot some more.
"That's the kind of work ethic that has made him the player that he is today," Nelson said. "He's really worked on his shooting.
"(He's) a versatile power forward/center, multiple positon guy that can guard folks out on the floor."
The Mavs play Powell both at center and at power forward, and he's not sure which one better suits his skill set.
He just knows he needs to know the ins and outs of both positions.
"I think going forward it's my responsibility to be prepared to play both positions at a high level and bring something positive to the team that regardless of if I'm at (power forward) or (center) for different lineups, different matchups, different situations, different periods of the game," Powell said. "Whatever our team needs I want to be able to kind of fill that spot.
"That means I have to work on a lot of things, including my shot and my body and my defence. So that's what I'm going to try to do over this offseason."