Raptors Cage

Toronto Raptors need Norman Powell on the court, not the bench


After the Toronto Raptors lost 115-84 to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s apparent that whatever they’re doing isn’t exactly working to their advantage. The Cavaliers ran them off the court by driving to the rim for highlight dunks, on their way to 56 points in the paint.

The Raptors seemed tired compared to the Cavaliers, who didn’t play for nine straight days before entering the Conference Finals. It’s the luxury they had after back-to-back sweeps, compared to the back-to-back Game 7s the Raptors had to face.

The only player with fresh legs and enough of a defensive motor on the Raptors is Norman Powell, who only played the last 6 minutes of garbage time in Game 1 against the Cavaliers. After becoming the newest Toronto cult hero against the Indiana Pacers in the first round, he’s disappeared to the end of the bench.

Against the Miami Heat, Powell was given the starting role for Game 1 of the series, where he played 22 minutes and went 1-5 from the field. It was the only time in the playoffs where the Raptors lost when he’s played over 20 minutes. Instead of giving the rookie another try, Powell finished the Conference Semis with a total of 55 minutes in seven games, the ninth lowest on the team.

Other players off the bench received more time, including Terrence Ross with 111 more minutes than Powell. Ross had a good series averaging 9.6 points on 49.1 per cent shooting from the field. Cory Joseph on the other hand, went cold with 8.6 points a game on 40 per cent shooting from the field and no 3-pointers throughout the entire series, but still played 123 more minutes than Powell.

After Powell played some of the best defence the Raptors have seen in their franchise history against Paul George, it’s time to give the rookie a chance against the Cavaliers’ explosive offence. When the Raptors played the Pacers, Powell also spent time guarding players from Monta Ellis at point guard, to the 6-foot-11 power forward, Myles Turner.

If he’s on the floor against the Cavaliers, he’d be able to switch on practically any of their players. His 6-foot-11 wingspan, lateral quickness, and 40 inch vertical gives him the ability to try to stay in front of players like Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, and LeBron James. While at the same time he can handle post ups against the 6-foot-10 Kevin Love, and the limited offensive repertoire of Tristan Thompson.

DeMarre Carroll seemed like the only wing defender that looked up to the task, until James threw done a tomahawk dunk from the baseline, on his way to 24 points on 11-13 shooting in Game 1.

The Cavaliers also love shooting the 3-ball, leading the league in the playoffs with an average of 34.4 attempts a game on 45.5 per cent shooting. Game 1 against the Raptors was the first time in the playoffs the Cavaliers didn’t score 12 or more 3-pointers, but they still scored 7 on 35 per cent shooting.

The Cavaliers are also averaging 14.6 more points a game than the Raptors in the playoffs because of their long distance shooting. Powell would make a good addition around the wing not only for his defence, but because of his 3-point ability. During the season he led the Raptors on 40.4 per cent shooting from 3, and in games that he’s scored 2 or more, the Raptors are 9-3.

Powell, along with every other Raptors player, hasn’t had the best shooting performance in the playoffs. He’s converting on 39.3 per cent of his field goal attempts, and 29.2 of his 3-points. A lot of that can be pointed towards the 3.7 field goal attempts he’s averaged, which isn’t permitting him from developing an offensive flow.

Powell isn’t the type of player that necessarily needs shots on offence, instead his great defence leads to offence. Which was certainly the case when he erupted in Game 5 against the Pacers.

All stats for this article are from NBA.com

You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97


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