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Blazers’ Powell Lands Near the Top of the Shooting Guard Class

According to The Athletic’s John Hollinger, Trail Blazers guard Norman Powell is set to become one of the best free agent guards on the market.

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Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

The Trail Blazers must navigate a hefty to-do list in the 2021 offseason. Near the top of the list is retaining potential free agent guard Norman Powell. The former Raptors guard has the ability to opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.

According to The Athletic’s John Hollinger, Powell is poised to become one of the top shooting guards on the open market. Utilizing his BORD$ scale, a system that assigns contract value based on previous output and future projections, Powell finished just behind Danny Green and Evan Fournier in this year’s shooting guard class.

Hollinger’s scale assigned a $12.9 million price tag to Powell’s projected salary for next season. He went on to guess that Powell should exceed that cap number and the Blazers are motivated to retain his services.

Portland’s pathway to keeping Powell is not hiccup-free. The Blazers would go into the luxury tax to keep him unless they make other moves (such as trading Derrick Jones Jr.); can they justify doing that for a team that hasn’t exactly torn through the league lately? Also, Powell has to play the three in Portland rather than his natural shooting guard spot.

Nonetheless, it has been strongly suspected in league circles that the Blazers did not trade for Powell at the 2021 deadline just so they could let him walk in free agency. One wonders if a long deal (say, four years with a player option) could reduce the 2021-22 salary impact (when the tax is of greatest concern) enough to make all sides happy.

After arriving in Portland at the trade deadline, Powell went on to start in 27 regular season games. With the Blazers, he averaged 17 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.

Former Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. is featured further down the list with a projected price tag of $5.3 million. Like Powell, Hollinger expects the Raptors’ restricted free agent to earn more than that on his next contract.

This is one of BORD$ more interesting calls because Gary Trent Jr. is almost certainly going to get paid significantly more than this, and subjectively, I would peg his value at roughly twice this number. Trent built up some equity as a 3-and-D guy in Portland, but his defensive metrics cratered last season. On the other hand, I think BORD$ now undervalues him as a result. He’s 22, he shoots 39.3 percent career from 3 and he’s likely to hold up better defensively if he’s not asked to guard 6-8 guys half the time.

You can read Hollinger’s full analysis of the shooting guard position at The Athletic (subscription required).