Norman Powell. The typical, Masai Ujiri, diamond in the rough type player that came out of nowhere. Drafted in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft, Powell was largely overlooked by the league despite the fact that he was an all-conference player in the Pac-12 and a two-time all-state high school player. In fact, the Toronto Raptors didn’t even draft him, he was traded to the Raptors by the Milwaukee Bucks, who used their 46th pick to select Powell, for Greivis Vasquez. Masai somehow finessed a first-round draft pick from the Bucks in this deal as well, talk about a fleece job! But this is the type of behavior we have now come to expect from the legendary executive.
Back to Powell, there were many ups with him, but the downs always felt so low. His then career high performance, against the Brooklyn Nets of 30 points in 2016, left Raptors fans wanting more Powell and earned him Eastern Conference NBA Rookie of the Month honours. On October 8, 2017, Powell signed a four-year contract extension which kicked in at the start of last season, and pays him $42 million over that span. At the time it seemed like a bargain, but then his inconsistent play over the past couple of seasons had many analysts wondering if he would be traded on account of his team friendly contract.
But is Norman finally going to have his moment? 20-point performances have become routine for Powell in this recent string of games, and has made a difference in many of them. For example, Powell showcased his 27-point performance against the lowly Atlanta Hawks, who proved to be pesky down the stretch for the Raps.
“You’re just taking the same shots you’ve been taking,” Norman said. “I have confidence in my game. I have confidence in my shot…Just live with the results, let your instincts take over and just play.”
Over most of the season, Powell has averaged 18.2 points per game in just 30 minutes of floor time. He is second in the association in three-point percentage over that time period, at 44.6, and Powell’s True Shooting percentage of 66.6 is third in the league.
By all accounts, Powell is never satisfied, and he especially was not after he signed his $42 million contract extension. This never-satisfied attitude, the chip-on-my-shoulder approach would surprise no one who knows Powell. His mother Sharon Powell remembers her son being frustrated with his teammates in basketball games when he was a kid. Frustrated, Powell told his grandma his team needed to play with better effort. He explained: “If you haven’t left it all out on the floor, you haven’t done what you’re supposed to do.” Sharon could only look at her son and shake her head. “I was like, ‘Really, Norman?’” Sharon said, laughing. “But that’s what he expects.”
The question will remain however, is this the Norman we can come to expect going forward? Raptors fans need to see this type of production on a consistent basis. Another bad stretch will inevitably heat up the trade Norman talks, as he is playing arguably the most important position on the team. No doubt, the shoes he has to fill are massive, as the player before him in that position, Kawhi Leonard remains the golden standard. It has always been assumed by many that his contract would have to be included in any significant deal and it’s been assumed his position was one the Raptors would try to upgrade.
But based on how Norm is playing as of late, who would be better that is available?