Should the Toronto Raptors consider trading Norman Powell?

Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Norman Powell (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Norman Powell is finally starting to live up to his potential. As a result, the time might be right for the Toronto Raptors to sell high.

I’m sure just seeing the headline, most fans would be outraged at even entertaining the idea of trading Norman Powell. The Toronto Raptors plucked him out of the second round. After years of struggling with consistency, Powell has finally emerged as a strong two-way contributor.

On the season, Powell is averaging 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is connecting on almost 40 percent of his 3s, while taking 5.4 per game. Not only that, but in 23 games as a starter, Powell increased his scoring average to 18.8 points per game.

Powell just turned 27 years old in May. He is entering the prime of his career. Powell should be able to step into the starting lineup when Kyle Lowry is gone. Powell along with Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby would give the Toronto Raptors a nice core to build around.

While all of that sounds nice, life just isn’t that simple. This is especially true in the NBA, a salary cap league, where the collective bargaining agreement penalizes teams for excessive spending.

It is no secret that the Raptors are keeping their powder dry for next summer when Giannis Antetokounmpo can become an unrestricted free agent. As such, the Toronto Raptors are not expected to make any big moves between now and then.

This year’s draft doesn’t feature any potential franchise players like Zion Williamson or Luka Doncic. There are a number of solid role players. The Raptors will hope they can find a rotation player at no. 28. Beyond that, the team will likely try to re-sign a few of their own players and look to keep the current roster mostly intact.

Chasing a superstar like Giannis can be a double-edged sword. The Raptors need to have the cap space to sign him. That means management must avoid taking on any long-term contracts in order to maintain flexibility for the future.

Instead of kick-starting a rebuild after Kawhi Leonard left, the Raptors decided to stand pat. They doubled down and signed Lowry to a one-year, $31 million contract extension. It would not be surprising to see Marc Gasol and/or Serge Ibaka sign similar one-year extensions in the offseason.

This strategy allows the Raptors to stay competitive now, with an eye towards the future. However, life is about to get more complicated for Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster.

Siakam signed a four-year, $130 million contract extension last summer. VanVleet is eligible for a new contract this summer. With Lowry nearing the end of his career, VanVleet is viewed as the Raptors’ point guard of the future.

The Raptors want to keep VanVleet long-term. But VanVleet is expected to receive a significant raise. A new deal starting at $18 million to $20 million annually would further complicate the Raptors’ cap sheet.

The Raptors won’t be the only team with cap space next summer waiting to offer Giannis a max contract. In order to be taken seriously when free agency starts, teams also have to prove that with Giannis they become an instant title contender.

The Milwaukee Bucks have the best record in the NBA. They have the league’s best defensive rating and the sixth-best offense. Giannis isn’t leaving that situation to go join a lottery team.

Back in 2010, the New York Knicks put themselves in a position to lure LeBron James to the Big Apple. Everyone knows how that turned out. LeBron chose Miami because it gave him the best opportunity to win a title.