Toronto Raptors: Norman Powell can be the glue guy for the Raptors bench

Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors have got the best out of Norman Powell in recent months. Can he be the glue that holds the bench together?

As well we all know by now, the Toronto Raptors acquired Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies two weeks ago in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles and Delon Wright. The Raptors gave up a wealth of depth to make the trade happen.

It was a lot to give up, especially as you lose, maybe, the best playmaker on your second unit, your primary volume shooter off of the bench and a big man that can screen, roll, and score. The burden of responsibility was delegated a little as the Raptors went out and picked up Jeremy Lin following his buyout with the Atlanta Hawks.

Still, Toronto had reason to be concerned with the depth of the bench, especially in the smaller positions. The play of Norman Powell should, and has, alleviated those concerns in the past months.

Since returning from a shoulder injury that kept Powell sidelined for him twenty games, his play has been a revelation for the Raptors and has reminded everyone of Norm’s true impact on this team.

Last season was a write-off for Powell, his minutes dropped by virtue of a huge regression in his play. This season, a switch has been flicked mentally. Powell has been great with his decision making. Last season, if he received the ball wide open in the corner, Powell would drive into a crowded paint area for a contested lay-up, as opposed to taking the three.

While his turnovers per game are the exact same for the past three seasons, his turnover percentage has dropped significantly. Last year, Powell has a turnover percentage of 14-percent per 100 plays. This season, that number has dropped to 10-percent. Powell is making smarter decisions and, by virtue of that, is shooting a lot better this season.

A poor effective field-goal percentage of 47-percent last season has improved to 55-percent this season, his three-point percentage has taken on a new lease of life too. Powell was a 28-percent shooter on under three attempts last season. This season, he’s still taking just under three attempts but is hitting 35-percent, around the league average.

Norman Powell isn’t necessarily a great three-point shooter or even a good one. The volume is too low to really put him in that sort of bracket. He is making a competitive percentage though, and that helps in big moments.

His defensive ability is well documented too, Powell has a wingspan readymade to disrupt ball-handlers and passing lanes. He’s allowing a field-goal percentage of 31-percent from three on two attempts a game. When Powell is locked in, he can be one of the best perimeter defenders on the team.

If Marc Gasol sticks around with the bench for a little longer, look to see Norman Powell cut for him on a frequent basis. Gasol is great as a post-passer, holding off the defender with his size while waiting for the optimal pass.

His do-it-all motif of this season not only propelled him back into the rotation, but it also paved the way for the Marc Gasol trade.

If Powell was the player he was last season, the Raptors might have thought twice about moving the potential shooting threat that comes with C.J. Miles or the playmaking of Delon Wright, along with his overall defensive qualities.

Now, Powell has proved he can take on the responsibility as a primary defender for the bench, as well as someone who can take the game outside of the paint. No one is expecting Powell to knock down five three-pointers a night, but he doesn’t need to either.

His role can be taking the stretching the floor, allowing Gasol more space to work in the paint, or to run a pick-and-roll, giving VanVleet an opportunity to play as a spot-up shooter. Powell can fill in with the starting line too, providing another scoring option for Kyle Lowry to distribute too, or if the Raptors want to play an ultra-lengthy, switch-centric line-up that can slug it out late in games.

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Powell is the Swiss army knife for a potentially resurgent bench, a utility man that can plug in and do a job anywhere. That’s the type of player you want in a run to the Finals.