The Toronto Raptors gave fans something to truly be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend as they invested a little bit of money towards their future. On Sunday, the signing of shooting guard Norman Powell was made official as he agreed to a 4-year, $42 million deal. This was first reported on Media Day last week by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski through twitter and fans’ reaction had a common theme to it – “thank goodness!”.
Norman Powell was drafted late in the 2015 draft where he had gone 46th overall and was picked up by the Milwaukee Bucks. He eventually landed in The 6ix when he, along with a 2017 first-round draft pick, was traded for Greivis Vasquez. Once a Raptor, Norm had the opportunity to play for the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and that’s when the love affair between Norm and Raptors fans began. Even during his early days in Summer League, his athleticism showed and it was evident that Norm could really do damage as long as he remained focused. Thanks to injuries of other players, the Raptors 905 and his infamous work ethic, Norman was able to work his way into the Raptors line-up and had his first NBA start on February 2, 2016 against the Phoenix Suns. From there, Norm continued to work at his craft to ensure that the coaching staff knew that he deserved more playing time and he was here to stay.
In his two seasons with the Raptors, Norman has played in 125 games, averaging 8.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and is 44.9% from the field. Not only has Norman Powell accepted his role as a key man coming off the bench but he has been able to show his readiness in whatever situation. The most recent example was during the 2016- 2017 post-season when he was dubbed as the “X-factor” during the Milwaukee Bucks series for his aggressiveness and confidence. It was during these games that had some questioning if he should actually be a part of the starting lineup.
So what is it about this signing that makes fans give the Raptors organization a pat on the back for a job well done?
Reason number one is that the Raptors didn’t wait until it was too late. After the 2017-2018 season, Norm would’ve become an unrestricted free-agent and very much due for a pay raise. In 2016, Norman was paid $1.5 million and so the $10.5 million he'll be getting is definite raise. All parties are well aware that if Norm continues to trend in the direction he’s been going, teams will be coming after him like wolves come free-agency next year. To avoid all that, this agreement was made and it makes you wonder what Bobby Webster and Masai said to him to convince him to stay.
Reason number two – the Raptors are getting a solid shooting guard for a steal. With the new CBA, money is getting thrown around as if money trees really do exist. If shooting guards like Tim Hardaway Jr. of the New York Knicks signed for 4 years, $70.9 million or Orlando Magic's Evan Fournier can sign for 4-years, $68 million , a player like Norman Powell would’ve received some juicy offers too. Also, there was always comparison between Norman Powell and Terrence Ross. Some fans were begging for Ross’ spot in the starting-lineup to be replaced with the more aggressive and consistent Norman Powell. Considering that Ross was being paid $11 million per year, fans feel much better knowing that the Raptors will be getting their dollars worth with Norm.
Lastly, this signing shows that the Raptors know what they’ve got and that DeMar’s loyalty is spreading. By avoiding the fight in free-agency, the Raptors are showing that they understand and appreciate Norm’s worth, locking him up before any other team gets the chance to woo him. This also tells you that Norman and his camp want to stay in Toronto – it’s not about the money for him. Norman must've known that he could’ve been offered more by different teams but perhaps that time playing with DeMar in Drew League allowed him to learn the importance of loyalty. Since the beginning of his career, Norman has always been very transparent about what’s important to him with regards to his role within the Raptors organization. When asked during the team's practice on Sunday afternoon, he didn't know if he was going to get an extension so he was going to play the year out and enter the off-season as a free-agent. But what he did know is that he wanted to stay in Toronto. The Raptors organization, the team, the country as a whole represents who he has been his entire basketball career. The idea of being the underdog and constantly being over looked by everyone fuels him to work even harder. The fact that DeMar DeRozan was one of the guys that Norm went to for advice about the potential extension shows Norm is trying to learn from the best, #proveem.
With all the changes that is going on in the NBA, the consistency that the Raptors have shown this off season is breath of fresh air. As fans, it has also been nice to see that there’s mutual confidence between the front office, the coaching staff and players that they’ve kept the core intact. Sure, we’ve lost some key role players and veterans whom we relied on but we have also been able to see the potential that this organization has and is continuing to build. In this past off season, we can start to see that players want to stick around in Toronto and the re-signing of Norman, along with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka is just the beginning.