The Trail Blazers’ deadline deal to acquire Norman Powell from the Raptors is a natural fit and his arrival has boosted Portland’s profile in short order. The departure of promising third-year guard Gary Trent Jr. stings, but Powell’s near-prime arsenal of offensive moves fits neatly on Damian Lillard’s win-now timeline.
On Friday, The Ringer’s Dan Devine delivered an excellent deep dive into the numbers and sequences that are boosting Powell’s success in Portland. Devine highlighted how Powell has adjusted smoothly to a less-demanding role inside a now-healthy Blazers rotation.
As you might expect when going from an injury-wracked team that needed him to score in bunches to one led by two All-Star-caliber backcourt playmakers, Powell is seeing the ball a bit less in Portland than he did in Toronto. His touches per game and time of possession are both down, according to NBA.com’s tracking data, and he’s averaging about five fewer shot attempts per 36 minutes of floor time. He’s been efficient in his opportunities, though, averaging 16.3 points in 32 minutes per game and shooting 7-for-12 from 3-point range with 17 free throw attempts in 96 minutes.
When comparing Powell to Trent, Devine focused on the former UCLA standout’s ability to keep opposing defenses off balance in multiple ways.
Trent Jr. also helped space the floor, shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range on more than 5.6 attempts per game over his final two seasons in Portland. What separates Powell though is that he also provides the ability to apply pressure by putting the ball on the floor. He can break down a defender off the bounce and get to the rim; he was taking 36 percent of his shots at the basket at the time of the trade, compared to 15 percent for Trent, and shooting 63 percent on those tries.
Devine’s praise was not limited to the offensive end, though. His feature also pointed to Powell’s presence as a versatile disrupter on the defensive end.
Powell’s fitting in while helping out on defense too. So far Stotts has had no qualms about asking him to guard 1 through 4 on any given possession, and Powell has rewarded him with both positional stability and possession disruption: six steals, three blocks, and nine deflections in three games.
Powell, in three outings with the Blazers, is averaging 16.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and two steals per game. With the Raptors this season, he was averaging a career-best 19.6 points per game on a stellar 49.8 percent shooting clip.
At the conclusion of this season, Powell can enter the open market as an unrestricted free agent by declining his $11.6 million player option for the 2021-22 season. The Powell-infused Blazers face their first test against a postseason-bound opponent on Friday against the Bucks.
You can read the full analysis from Devine at The Ringer.