Are Norman Powell’s struggles in 2020-21 just a cold stretch, or a sign that he’s regressing?
The 1-5 Toronto Raptors are currently leaking coolant, as a team that won an NBA Championship and earned the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference in consecutive seasons has completely regressed on offense, as they rank just 26th in points scored and 29th in points per 100 possessions this season. Pascal Siakam has been underperforming, and the question of who should start at center continues to rage on, but no one has regressed more than wing Norman Powell.
Powell, fresh off a 16.4 points per game season in 2019-20, his first as a featured offensive weapon following the departure of Kawhi Leonard, is averaging just 8.5 points per game in 22 minutes with a paltry 31 percent field goal percentage. While Nick Nurse hasn’t been shy about calling out guards Terence Davis and Matt Thomas, his criticism of Powell has to sting, considering how much was expected of him.
Norman Powell has always been streaky, but his flaws have been magnified due to his increased role.
Powell’s defense has never been his calling card, but his sweet shot was supposed to help sustain Toronto’s new-look, bomb squad offense that features several shooters taking turns chucking it deep. However, the Raptors have topped 110 points per 100 possessions with Powell on the floor just once in his Raptors career, which happened to be last season. This year, that number has fallen from 115 points per 100 possessions to just 84, one of the worst individual marks in the league. With his assist percentage falling from the middle of the pack to a few ticks away from dead last, per Cleaning the Glass, Powell isn’t serving as a distributor or facilitator.
Points per shot attempt is where he has really fallen from grace, as he went from the 93rd percentile across all of basketball last year to just the ninth percentile this year. With his shot evaporating and his style of play offering little besides shooting, can Nurse keep trusting him with heavy minutes down the stretch?
Powell could get away with being streaky when he’s a rotational guard tasked with hitting a few threes every game. When you are now one of the main scoring options on a 1-5 team that most expected to end up in the postseason, shooting at a percentage that makes Linas Kleiza look like Vince Carter isn’t going to be tolerated.
Ujiri has to consider if Powell is a block worth building around in 2021 and beyond.