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Powell Brings Floor Spacing Prowess & Size Limitations to the Blazers

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A look at Trail Blazers newcomer Norman Powell and what he could bring to Portland’s rotation.

Denver Nuggets v Toronto Raptors Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The Trail Blazers made waves at the deadline with the addition of Raptors guard Norman Powell. In order to acquire the former UCLA standout, Portland shipped promising third-year guard Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood to Toronto.

As the dust settles, here is a look at Powell’s game and what he might bring to the Blazers’ rotation.

Quick Overview

Norman Powell | SG

HT: 6’3”
WT: 215
Wingspan: 6’10.75”
Age: 27

2020-21 Statistics

PTS: 19.6
AST: 1.8
REB: 3.0
FG%: 49.8
3P%: 43.9

Floor Spacing

Powell has emerged as one of the most efficient perimeter shooters in the NBA. He has done so by funneling his attempts into analytics-friendly zones. According to the most-recent update on Cleaning the Glass (it is a few games behind), Powell has attempted 255 three-pointers this season. Of those 255 three-point shots, 92 of those attempts have occurred from the corner. In that efficiency-friendly area, Powell is converting 53 percent of those corner three-pointers—placing him in 92nd percentile at his position group.

As a catch-and-shoot three-point shooter, Powell is shooting at a 44.9 percent rate this season. When opponents lose track of the former Raptors guard, he converts wide-open attempts from distance at a solid 52.8 percent rate. For comparison, Trent posted a catch-and-shoot rate of 42.1 percent and a wide-open accuracy rate of 47.4 percent.

Size Concerns

Regardless of his modest 6-foot-3 billing (6-foot-10 wingspan), Powell has regularly alternated minutes at shooting guard and small forward during his time in Toronto. This season, according to Basketball Reference, he has played roughly 44 percent of his minutes at small forward.

That level of versatility is noteworthy, but it also comes with a large warning label. This season represents that largest chunk of time that Powell has spent at small forward. He has also posted a career-low -0.6 defensive box plus/minus. Last year, in a season where Powell played only 13 percent of his time at small forward, he posted a career-best 0.8 DBPM.

Powell’s wingspan and experience at small forward could prove useful in the regular season, but the Blazers could face the same old issues once the postseason arrives.

Scoring Versatility

Outside of his work from distance, Powell has proven he can generate points in tough spots by getting to the free throw line. According to Cleaning the Glass, Powell’s shooting fouled percentage (SFLD%) ranks in the 76th percentile at his position group. Currently, Damian Lillard’s SFLD percentage is nearly identical to Powell’s rate — both players land in the 76th percentile.

In regards to volume and accuracy. Powell is averaging a career-high 3.9 free throw attempts per game. Once he is at the line, he is converting a career-best 86.5 percent of his attempts. In just the last month, Powell has finished four games with at least five attempts from the charity stripe.

Inside the arc, ranks inside the bottom half of his position group for midrange attempts. Instead, Powell’s offense is primarily geared towards shots in the restricted area and from beyond the arc. This season, he has converted 63 percent of his attempts at the rim —placing him in the 52nd percentile at his position.

Looking Forward

Powell is under contract through the 2021-22 season, but the final year of that deal contains a player option. It is unclear if Powell will attempt to test the waters this offseason or potentially wait until the following summer. The Blazers face a similar set of circumstances with Derrick Jones Jr. after the conclusion of this season.

With an unfortunate assist from an Achilles injury, the Blazers successfully navigated those waters just a few months ago with Rodney Hood. It is unclear, and almost impossible to truly know, if the Blazers and Powell at least flirted with unofficial talks prior to the trade’s completion. Either way, it is now clear that Portland wanted no part of navigating Trent’s restricted free agency after this season.

For the regular season, Powell’s addition should add reliable tertiary scoring. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Blazers flirt with Lillard-McCollum-Powell lineups. But given that groups projected limitations on defense, you might not want to hold your breath.

On deadline day, the Blazers added a nice regular season piece in Powell. Elsewhere in the Western Conference, the Nuggets bolstered their postseason rotation.