Raptors: Should Norman Powell remain a permanent starter?

TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 31: Norman Powell #24 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 31: Norman Powell #24 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors started their 2021 season not quite on the right foot as we all know by now. However, recently they’ve been racking up the wins and now hold a 13-15 record after starting 2-8 on the year.

The Raptors’ slow start to the season was a mixture of a whole bunch of factors, some of which weren’t even in their control. From not being able to score at first to not be able to defend like how they have in recent years to even technically playing all your games on the road, Toronto has been hit with a fair bit of adversity.

However, during that poor stretch of games for the Raptors, there were a couple of players who just couldn’t seem to play to the best of their ability, and they were often a liability whenever they were on the floor.

Norman Powell, constantly the subject of trade rumors, was one of the players who had a very slow start to the season as he was coming off the bench, which he is comfortable with as he’s been part of the bench unit for years now, but his offense off the bench was just non-existent to start the season.

Should Norman Powell start for the Raptors?

Before we start to talk about if Powell should remain a permanent starter or not, let’s talk about his 2020-21 season so far as we are 28 games. Powell is averaging 16.2 points per game on 46 percent shooting from the floor, 42 percent from 3-point range, and 88 percent from the free-throw line, all of which are above his career averages.

Despite Powell’s really slow start to the 2021 season, he has picked it up offensively recently and has been on fire as he’s a huge reason why the Raptors’ offense has been among the leagues best throughout the season.

With OG Anunoby sidelined with his injury prior to their game against Milwaukee, Powell had the opportunity to start alongside the other staters. As we all know, Powell did his job and even more, as he’s been a consistent scorer for this team when called upon.

Why Norman Powell should remain a starter for the Raptors

Going back to how slow of a start Powell had this season, he was coming off the bench and his offensive production just wasn’t there and we all didn’t know why that was the case after he had an impressive improved season last year compared to seasons prior.

The very second that Powell had the opportunity to start in the starting lineup for the Raptors after a couple of injuries to some players and Nurse deciding to opt for a smaller lineup, Powell looked like a whole new player.

His offense took off again, and his shooting splits just kept going up. At the 28 game mark in the season, Powell is a part of the 40/40/80 club. While unferior to the 50/40/90 club, 40/40/80 is still impressive for a player like Powell.

Through the 26 games Powell has played in, he has started in 15 of them, and in those 15 games, he has averaged 20.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. His shooting splits are even better as they are through the roof with him shooting 51 percent from the floor, 45 percent from 3, and 91 percent at the line.

When he comes off the bench, it’s a totally different story. In the 11 games that he has come off the bench, he has averaged just 10.5 points per game, nowhere near the numbers he has totaled when starting games. His shooting splits, on the other hand, are even worse. He is shooting 35 percent from the floor and 38 percent from deep.

Of course, Powell would only remain a starter if Nick Nurse decides to play small-ball instead of starting Baynes at the five. When OG Anunoby was out with his injury, the lineup was as followed, Lowry, VanVleet, Powell, Siakam, and Baynes.

When Anunoby returned against Milwaukee, Nurse went with a small-ball starting lineup of Lowry, VanVleet, Powell, Anunoby, and Siakam, and they actually looked pretty good together. It also allows you to bring in Boucher off the bench about five minutes into the game like how they were doing it when they started Baynes at the five.

Why Norman Powell shouldn’t remain a starter for the Raptors

Although there are good reasons why Powell should remain a starter for the Toronto Raptors, there are also reasons why he should remain part of the second unit coming off the bench. With his the monster numbers he has been putting up, maybe that translates to his bench production if Nurse decides to put him back there since Anunoby is now back from injury.

The main reason why Powell could remain with the bench unit is that there is a possibility that the bench production could take a massive decline with Powell starting games. If Powell remains with the starting unit the main players coming off the bench are basically Chris Boucher, Terence Davis, DeAndre’ Bembry, and Baynes.

The Toronto Raptors currently rank 23rd in the NBA in bench production with 33.5 PPG and it’ll only go down from there or at least stay around the same ranking if Powell stays a starter for this team. Is that a risk Nurse will take?

It’s not a bad idea at all to keep what the Raptors have been rolling out there when OG was in the lineup. A starting lineup of Lowry, VanVleet, Anunoby, Siakam, and Baynes got the job done sometimes, but most of the time they would struggle in the beginning and need their bench to help them out.

If Powell remains a part of the bench unit and begins to start struggling again like how he did in the first half of the season, then I don’t see a problem with him coming into the game within the first four or five minutes, kind of like how Boucher is getting treated right now.

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