If you have not yet listened to Powell on the piano then you’re definitely missing out. It’s a catchy, corny song that has the lyrics of “it’s all a big N.P., no problem to me…” However, we’re 12 games into the season and it has some fans saying “ummm, I think this big N.P. is kind of becoming a problem.” So where has pre-contract Norman Powell gone?
In 12 games, the Raptors have gone 7-5 where they have lost a handful of games that were theirs for the taking. Most recently, Sunday’s loss to the number one seed, Boston Celtics, has fans thoroughly frustrated. Not only was this game a stream of constant “what are you thinking?!” and “oh come on, finish those!” but it also took Powell out late in the first quarter. Norman Powell collided with the wall that was Aron Baynes' as he was fighting through a screen and resulted in a hip injury. Norm gingerly walked to the locker room accompanied with team doctor, Alex McKechnie. It wasn’t long after Norm left for the locker room that it was announced he wouldn’t be coming back.
Prior to the tip-off for the 2017-2018 season, many were questioning if Norman was going to take the last spot within the starting rotation. From what fans have seen from Norm, we were all begging Coach Casey to give him a real shot at being a starter. But from what we’ve seen this far in the season, is Norman Powell better suited as the spark off the bench?
In the 11 games that Norman has started, he has averaged 23.8 minutes, 9 points, 2.2 assists and 1.3 turn overs. He’s shooting 41.9% from the field and 34.6% from beyond the arc. You’re probably looking at these numbers and thinking that they’re not bad for a guy who is just in his 3rd year in the league, and you’re right. But perhaps it’s the change of Norman’s style that has many questioning if a starting position is really for him. We have seen Norman trying to do too much and he almost wants to play hero ball any chance he gets. Don’t get us wrong, Norman’s confidence and aggressiveness is one of the things that fans love but has it become his fault? Norman is now surrounded by the heart of this team’s offense in Kyle and DeMar so he has to realize that he is not the number one offensive option with this rotation. Norman is getting into the habit of these iso-plays where he is taking the possession from one end of the court to the other all on his own. Even though Powell is capable of being an effective ball handler, this should only be done when necessary. In order to be even considered a productive play-maker, he has to develop an eye for the court and the ability to find his teammates. Norman needs to play with his head up and really buy into the new style of basketball that Coach Casey is trying to implement This seems to be a problem with the starting rotation in general but the lack of ball movement with this rotation has been one of the main reasons why our second unit has been the star of this season so far. Yes, you’re right – we’re only 12 games into an 82-game season. But with Norms' recent injury, this may be a time where someone else steps up and takes over his starting position.
Enter OG Anunoby.
How nice is it to see a rookie come in and actually be ready to play? None of this “two years away from two years…” non-sense like with some of our other young guys. In his debut season thus far, OG has averaged 5.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists. He’s shooting 40.7% from the field and 37.9% from the three. OG is a very underrated rookie that could’ve gone much earlier in the draft. However, due to his recent ACL injury, most teams passed up on him in fear that the injury would hold him back. Keep in mind that OG was not even scheduled to play until mid/late November and so, what he’s producing for the Raptors right now is not even 100% of his potential. He has already shown that he has the basketball IQ to run with any line-up that coach puts him on and is showing potential to be that two-way player that the Raptors have been hoping for. At 6’8”, OG is able to use his size to defend against other elite small forwards and use his physicality to challenge them, which is something that Norm lacks at 6’4”. What Norm has over OG though is his athleticism -- what Norm lacks for in size, he makes up for in effort and sheer athleticism.
It’s not known how long Norman will be out for or if he will even miss any time but maybe this is good for the team. Coach Casey has a tendency to run with the same lines over and over again but this year it’s been different. We have seen some interesting line-ups from super small ball style to your traditional lines but with Norm possibly missing time, it will force Coach Casey to mix things up even more.
Only time will tell if that late pre-season extension of Norman Powell was really worth it but in the meantime, let’s just enjoy the music that has resulted from his signing…