Since the Toronto Raptors have been without DeMarre Carroll, they’ve been forced to experiment with different starting lineups. As of recently, these starting lineups have featured rookie sensation, Norman Powell. While this promotion is almost definitely temporary, the question is put forth: what is Norm’s long-term potential?
While the young guard has excelled in his rookie season relative to expectations, it’s still unclear whether he’ll have a more prominent role with the team once DeMarre Carroll returns. If the Summer League is an indication of a player’s progress, it’s worth noting that Norm was the only rookie to earn the honours of being on the 2015 Summer League All-NBA team. However, this franchise is far too used to speculation. The area we must focus on is results. As is the case with Norman Powell. What justifies him being considered a ‘steal’? I see three possible outcomes which could play out in Norm’s career.
The league has several role players and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Powell has the build of a strong and fierce scoring guard. In his rookie season, Norm hasn’t exactly turned heads as he’s averaging 3.2 points and 1.7 boards on 34.3% shooting in 39 games this season. There’s no doubt he has potential, but will he live up to it? He had one game with 17 points against Milwaukee but even then, he shot 6 for 15 from the field and didn’t really contribute much else. He also had a game against Oklahoma City where he scored 18 and shot over 50%. Maybe he would be a similar player to Rodney Stuckey or Nick Young but explosive. A high-volume shooter and not much else. This seems pessimistic, however.
Maybe Powell will prove to be a sixth man at best. The Raps had a guy who won Sixth Man of the Year just last season in Lou Williams. Powell was a scorer in the summer league, if nothing else. I’m not saying he’s similar to Lou in anyway, however, he can certainly get to the rim and has flashed potential whether it be as a starter or off the bench. The only time Powell has ever really come off the bench was during the earlier part of the season in games where the Raptors would have already had a sizable lead. This seems like a very plausible outcome.
While Powell has not had much time in the previously mentioned roles, as of this writing he has started in 14 of 39 games. During his time as a starter, he has averaged 6.6 points, 3 rebounds and 1.3 assists on 39% shooting. These numbers are not pretty and don’t make a good case for Powell as a starter. However, it’s only his rookie season. If there was one game where he was given a legitimate opportunity to showcase his skills, it was during the 17 point outing he had against Milwaukee. He also had this play, demonstrating his speed and his ball handling skills. Not to mention, the jam:
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 16, 2016
His contribution helped lift the Raps to a 107-89 blowout of the Bucks. He managed to shoot 40% from the field, go 3/7 from beyond the arc while accumulating 2 blocks and a steal in that game. Powell also provided a solid performance in a loss against the Houston Rockets. He tallied 13 points, 4 boards, 2 helpers, a block and a steal. Even more impressive was the game he had against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Raptors may have dropped the game, but Powell provided the team with 18 points, 4 boards and 2 blocks all while shooting 54% from the field and a ludicrous 57% from downtown in 28 minutes. Keep in mind, this is only a glimpse of what he’ll be capable of doing in 2-4 years.
It may be too early to say what role Powell will serve, and even where he might be. However, with his combination of athleticism and his work ethic, plus the fact that he’s already established himself as one of the top second-round rookies, there’s no doubt he has the tools to be a very good player for years to come.