With the conclusion of the Portland Trail Blazers’ preseason schedule last night, the countdown is on to the start of the 2021-22 NBA regular season. Blazer’s Edge will be running our season preview from now until the Blazers tip off the year against the Sacramento Kings next Wednesday.
Today’s preview focuses on Norman Powell, who is entering his first full season with the Blazers after reaching a lucrative contract agreement in the offseason.
PTS: 18.6 | REB: 3.1 | AST: 1.9 | STL: 1.2 | FG%: 47.7 | 3P%: 41.1
*31 games with the Raptors, 27 with the Blazers
Powell’s efficiency numbers dipped slightly upon his arrival in Portland. His three-point percentage took the biggest hit. With the Raptors, Powell was connecting on a blistering 43.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. His three-point accuracy clocked in at 36.1 percent with the Blazers.
Contract: $15.5 million in 2021-22, guaranteed through 2025-26
Powell immediately raised both the floor and ceiling for the Blazers’ starting rotation last season. This year, following a new four-year contract agreement, Powell will once again play a vital part in Portland’s scheme. Defensively, Powell utilizes his favorable wingspan to hold his ground when playing out of position at small forward. On most nights, Powell is tasked with picking up the opposing team’s best perimeter option.
Offensively, Powell’s role is constantly evolving. He is too talented to serve as a corner-only safety valve. Powell has proven he is a quick and stellar decision maker with the ball in his hands. Under coach Chauncey Billups, who is coming from a Clippers system that featured playmaking from all the perimeter positions, Powell is poised to put post career-high assist numbers.
Powell has to continue to leverage his quickness into positive play on the defensive end. Unlike last season, Powell is signed up to play out of position for an entire year. One way to make up for that disadvantage is to deploy an opportunistic approach. To be clear, this does not mean abandoning specific defensive assignments. Instead, Powell has room to grow when it comes to steals. He can reach those benchmarks by using his speed to invade passing lanes.
Offensively, Powell must find a way to maximize his chances from beyond the arc. He has proven he can shoot close to 40 percent on his three-pointers. Hopefully Powell finishes this season above his 36-percent clip from last year.
Powell is now in it for the long haul with the Blazers after his post-deadline run last year. Like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Powell is in his prime years at his position. Outside of his lack of size at the small forward position, the table is set for big things from Powell. In the 2021 NBA Playoffs, Powell connected 50 percent of his field goal attempts and averaged 17.0 points per game. That level of efficiency might not be sustainable, but that is a solid foundation for the 2021-22 season.
When it comes to backup rotations, Powell is a player to watch. If he returns to a backcourt slot as Lillard or McCollum rests, Powell could emerge as a primary option.
Also See Our Previous Season Preview Posts: