Toronto Raptors: Why Norman Powell should be a starter in place of VanVleet

Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /
Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Norman Powell (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

Powell has been fantastic for the Toronto Raptors this season and he should be rewarded in these upcoming matches with a spot in the starting roster, and here’s why.

It’s no secret that the NBA’s best-kept secret is on the Toronto Raptors, and usually, secrets are best when they are hidden. But for the Toronto Raptors, unleashing this particular secret (Norman Powell) to the starting lineup is what can make them even better.

After Norman Powell’s impressive season, Powell has been quietly averaging 16 points on a 60.4 effective field goal rate — this is considered extremely high for a guard for those who may not know.

Powell’s case

If not for his time away from his two injuries on two separate occasions — suffered a fracture on his finger in February and a shoulder injury in December — then Powell would’ve been part of the discussion for Six Man of the Year. Even the Raptors many injuries have hurt any chances of him winning that award leading him to start more than half of games due to injury.

However, it has given us a good sample size of how great Powell has been as a starter. Let’s look at his stats as a starter compared to when he is coming off the bench.

  • Starter: 18.8 points, 51.8 FG%, 42.3  3P%
  • Bench: 13.7 points, 47.9 FG%, 36.4  3P%

Powell is surprisingly more efficient as a starter than when he is coming off a bench. The obvious question would be: “Who’s spot would he take?” And there is only one realistic answer, Fred VanVleet.

Not so steady shooting percentages

Steady Freddy has had a great season. His defense has been tremendous, and his chemistry with Siakam as one of the team’s primary ball-handler has kept the team afloat. The one problem is that he isn’t so steady when scoring (besides his three-point shot).

For starters, VanVleet seems to continually miss easy shots around the rim or just attempt shots that only Kyrie Irving or Stephen Curry can finish. This leads him to shoot an abysmal 51% from 4 feet within the basket — ranks among the bottom 17th percentile of all combo guards. While Norman Powell is shooting 68% from that very same place (the same rate as JOEL EMBIID!). He also manages to only shoot a horrid 25% from mid-range which is puzzling given how well he shoots beyond the arc.

A better half-court offense with Powell in the lineup

What made playing against the Toronto Raptors so hard was their selection of guys who can bring the ball up the floor: Siakam, Lowry, and VanVleet. All three of these guys have usage rates of 25% or higher. This makes it harder to know what to do in transitions and is the number one reason they are THE BEST transition team in the league by a comfy margin too — Raptors create 28.3 points per game off transition, second is Rockets with 26.

But with three guys needing the ball in their hand to make an impact, this can make it tough to work within the half-court. The Toronto Raptors are ranked 18th in the halfcourt points per play and the result of having too many ball handlers hurts them. That is why plugging a guy like Norman Powell will be beneficial for them especially here.

Norman Powell is a natural cutter, a better finisher, and doesn’t need the ball (although he is good in iso situations) in his hands to be effective. 77% of Powell’s made field goals have come assisted, while VanVleet has only 41% of his made field goals assisted.

The stats already prove that Powell can be a more effective starter than VanVleet. When VanVleet has been injured and replaced by Powell, team differential per 100 points is +15.4. With VanVleet in the lineup, the team differential is +12.3. The Raptors are better by a whole 3.1 points with Norman Powell.

Of course, the downfall of this is that their transition game may not be as good if Powell is starting. But that’s just a trade-off you have to take, especially in the playoffs when games are played at a slower pace and transitions aren’t as common.

With three scrimmage games and eight regular-season games to play, the best time to test this out would be in the coming weeks. Logic and the stats show that adding Powell in the starting lineup has been beneficial. It is always possible that Nick Nurse just sees something that I don’t here. Afterall, VanVleet is a better defender than Powell and defense is something we know Nurse is quite fond of.

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Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see if they test this out if ever things get rocky in the halfcourt especially. But for now let’s just enjoy the NBA restart, regardless if it’s VanVleet or Powell in the starting five for the Toronto Raptors.