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Blazers Receive Mixed Marks for Powell Trade

The pundits have delivered their thoughts on the Trail Blazers move to acquire Raptors guard Norman Powell.

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Trail Blazers landed Raptors guard Norman Powell in exchange for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood just before the NBA Trade Deadline hit. Now that the dust has started to settle, NBA analysts have delivered their initial grades for Portland’s recent acquisition.

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton gave the Blazers a B grade for their deal with the Raptors. Pelton highlighted Powell’s ability to keep his efficiency intact as his role increased during the Raptors’ struggles.

As a reserve in 2018-19 and a part-time starter (26 of his 52 games) in 2019-20, Powell was mostly a role player on offense. With Kyle Lowry in and out of the lineup and Pascal Siakam up and down, he’s been asked to create far more offense for himself. Powell’s usage rate has jumped from 21.5% of Toronto’s plays to a career-high 24%, yet his efficiency (.642 true shooting percentage) is also better than ever.

Pelton also touched on how much Powell could earn on the open market in the 2021 offseason.

There’s little doubt Powell is an upgrade the rest of the season. The question is how much he’s going to cost as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Given how much cap space is available and that Powell is in his prime (he’ll turn 28 in May) at a position of need, it wouldn’t be surprising if he came close to doubling the $11.6 million player option he’s sure to decline.

CBS Sports contributor Sam Quinn delivered a C+ grade to the Blazers. Quinn cited Powell’s questionable fit and the looming cost of his next contract in the analysis portion of the trade grades.

The truth is that this deal was likely made in part because of intel we don’t have access to. The Blazers have a sense of what Trent was going to cost this offseason because they had him in the building. For whatever reason, they have seemingly determined that they would rather pay Powell whatever he asks for than Trent whatever he asks for. That’s a choice that would make sense to some teams. On paper, it doesn’t for Portland. Any slight improvement in talent doesn’t make up for the questionable fit here.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, NBC Sports analyst Steve Alexander gave the Blazers an A+ grade for their work at the deadline. Alexander explained that Portland’s rotation is clearer in the aftermath of Powell’s arrival.

The Blazers were able to flip Rodney Hood and Gary Trent Jr. to the Raptors for Norman Powell. The Raptors will miss Powell and the Blazers will love him, as he’s one of the best 3-point shooters in the league and is averaging 25.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 3.9 3-pointers on 54 percent shooting in March. C.J. McCollum took notice of Powell’s eventual arrival by breaking out of a shooting funk on Thursday with 35 points and eight assists on 14-of-25 shooting with six triples. But Powell is going to make an immediate impact and the Blazers cleared up some rotation room by moving two for one. Derrick Jones Jr. is likely the guy who takes the biggest hit from the arrival of Powell.

Washington Post NBA columnist Ben Golliver did not deliver a letter grade, but he did list Raptors President Masai Ujiri as a winner at the deadline. Golliver credited Ujiri for selling high on Powell and landing a promising young player in the process.

While Powell is a better player than Trent now and should give Portland a boost before the playoffs, Trent is just 22 years old and will be a restricted free agent this summer. Ujiri will therefore be in position to match any offers on Trent — an advantage he wouldn’t have had with Powell — and he should have the flexibility to sign Trent to a long-term deal after negotiating a bargain extension for OG Anunoby. This season has been a nightmare for the Raptors, but eventually launching the post-Lowry era with a core group of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Anunoby and Trent would look pretty darn good.

After sleeping on it, we want to hear from you. If you had to give the Blazers a letter grade for Thursday’s trade, what would it be?