Why The Toronto Raptors Can’t Give Up on Norman Powell Right Now

Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Unfortunately, Norman Powell was underwhelming last season for the Toronto Raptors. Despite this, there are a few key reasons that the team cannot give up on Powell just yet. 

As detailed in a previous post ranking the team’s contracts from best to worst, Norman Powell had quite the dismal season last year. Appropriately, Norm was selected as the worst contract on the Toronto Raptors. Powell’s 2017-18 regular season was typified by…

Despite this lack of productivity, here are three key reasons the team cannot yet give up on the 25-year-old out of UCLA…


1. Youth/Age + Contract

Norman Powell is still only 25 years old. Whereas this team has two players over 30 (Kyle Lowry and CJ Miles), who are likely much closer to the end of their careers, Powell can still potentially develop into a productive NBA player.

As well, with the money and years that Toronto has already invested in Powell (four years left at a total of around $40.8M), the Raptors might as well not waste him. Right now, he looks about as untradeable as anyone.

Essentially, playing him more minutes could go one of three ways:

A. He plays well and the Toronto Raptors benefit from it themselves

B. He plays well and the Toronto Raptors are able to trade him

C. He plays poorly, even with his increased role, and the Toronto Raptors find themselves “eating” his contract for four years

It is easy to forget that in the 2016-17 postseason, Powell averaged 11.7 points per game on 42.7% shooting in 25.2 minutes per game.

Accordingly, Powell clearly has the potential to regain his past productivity with an increased role next year. As reason two will touch on later, Powell had his role reduced after just 12 starts this year, so it is entirely possible that he can resurge if given the opportunity.

However, even if he does not play well, playing him — in other words, “not giving up on him” — is key right now. Effectively, the Raptors cannot give up on Powell right now and should play him because they need to avoid allowing him to become dead money at the end of the bench (see: Luol Deng in LA). Powell is still young enough to potentially make an impact if given the minutes to do so.

Note: *More on his age/youth to come in reason three*

2. Role Was Unexpectedly Taken From Him by Casey/New Leadership Incoming

Norman Powell’s role was somewhat unexpectedly taken from him with the emergence of OG Anunoby this past season. While Anunoby definitely outplayed Powell and earned the starting job, it is always hard for players to adjust to a role change.

From 25.2 minutes per game in the 2016-17 postseason to 15.2 minutes this past regular season, it seems unfair to expect consistency from a player whose role changed so dramatically.

On top of that, Powell only got 12 games to prove himself as a starter this year.  Admittedly, in those 12 starts, Powell faltered, averaging only 8.2 points on 35.8% from the field. However, the Toronto Raptors cannot give up on him yet because Powell is not entirely at fault for the role he received.

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In other words, it was former head coach Dwane Casey that relegated Norm to the role he received this season. Accordingly, the Raptors bringing in a new regime means they cannot give up on Powell just yet. The organization must first see if anything changes with the new leadership and then make a decision on Powell. As pointed out above, Powell’s ’16-17 postseason proves that he is capable of productivity if given the opportunity — something that may be particularly true with a new coaching staff and a clean slate. Until that happens, however, the Raptors cannot give up on Powell because, as seen with players like Andrew Bogut, a coaching change can truly turn a player’s career around.

3. Impending Youth Movement in Toronto

In the last three years, the Toronto Raptors have fallen victim to the same kryptonite, LeBron James. Unfortunately, Toronto did not trade into this year’s draft. Moreover, Toronto does not have enough money to make any valuable moves in free agency. Appropriately, the Toronto Raptors seem headed for another year of great regular season play and further postseason disappointment next season.

If this trend continues, all of Toronto’s “big three” contracts will end in two years without any real success. Once that happens, the team must prepare for youth-centric revolution throughout the organization.

Being the sixth youngest player on the team, Powell will only be 27 when this “youth movement” would begin. Appropriately, his relatively young age could make him a key part of this team’s future.

Again, after playing well in the 2016-17 playoffs and then regressing only after his minutes were cut, more opportunity could surely translate to increased production for Powell.

Therefore, Powell is ultimately still young enough to be a part of Toronto’s impending youth movement. Appropriately, because that shift may potentially occur soon, the Raptors simply cannot afford to give up on Powell just yet. If they do, Toronto may just regret it when the team prepares for the next era of Raptors basketball.