With Kyle Lowry out of the picture for the foreseeable future, the Toronto Raptors are going to need Norman Powell to step into the starting lineup.
Against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night – a game the Toronto Raptors waltzed through – there was a lot to like, but a lot to be concerned about. As the second half started, we learned that both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka would return to the game.
Ibaka looked to endure a nasty sprained ankle after landing awkwardly on OG Anunoby’s heel, while Lowry suffered an injury to his thumb – though, luckily, it wasn’t related to the previous injury when trying to steal the ball in the first quarter. The hole left by both players in the second half was noticeable, but the Raptors managed to win the game comfortably.
However, both Lowry and Ibaka could miss considerable time for the Raptors, and their absence will no doubt be felt. Lowry was on a dazzling run to start the season, averaging 21.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6.5 assists in his first eight games, shooting 43-percent from three. He was hot.
Now, the Toronto Raptors are without their starting point guard, the secret to their sustained success for the past six years. Without him, the offense could look noticeably different. He’s one of the best pick-and-roll ball-handlers in the NBA, averaging 1.12 points per possession, and his ability to dissect a defense is unparalleled. He cannot be replaced, but someone is going to have to step up.
Powell was resigned to a role off the bench, as the seventh man in the Raptors rotation. Considering how impressive he was last season, expectations were high heading into the year. For the most part, it’s been a rather mediocre start for Powell. He’s averaged a career-high 8.8 points per game, along with 3.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game, but shooting a dismal 29-percent from three. Powell just hasn’t been at the races.
Luckily, his most recent game for the Raptors happened to be his best of the season. Against the Pelicans, Powell was a team-high plus-28, while putting up 18 points, four rebounds, and one steal on 60-percent shooting from the field and 50-percent from three.
Powell played the remainder of the game with the starters and looked comfortable in doing so. Now, it seems as if Powell will be pushed into the starting lineup to facilitate a hole. It’s uncertain how long Lowry will be out, but according to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, he will miss at least two weeks.
That means that we’ll likely be seeing a Powell/VanVleet starting backcourt for the next two weeks and beyond. That also means that Norman Powell is going to have to step up. Hopefully, his performance against the Pelicans is an indication of what to expect, but even a watered-down version of that will do.
He currently has a usage-percentage of 16-percent, the lowest mark of his career, and the Raptors may look to use him more frequently as a ball-handler in the starting lineup, though Pascal Siakam and VanVleet will likely take the bulk of the responsibility over the next few weeks.
It still presents a significant opportunity for Powell, a strong performance over the next few weeks could reevaluate Nick Nurse’s plans to start VanVleet alongside Lowry moving forward – but for now, getting back into his groove is important to the Raptors success.
Powell’s greatest weakness has been his consistent lack of consistency, a paradox within itself. Getting back on track could set the record straight, that Powell can be a valuable member of the Toronto Raptors rotation. It all starts here though.