Can Norman Powell Recover from his Rock Bottom?

Norman just had the worst season of his short NBA career so far. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

It was an unexpectedly disappointing year for Norman Powell. In early October the Raptors signed him to a 4-year $40-million-dollar extension. At the time that was praised. An up-and-coming athletic two-guard who’s been a key, explosive asset for us in the playoffs? Yes, please.

But as you all know, we’ve endured a paradigm shift since that 4-year deal was signed.

Norman took command of the starting small-forward role to begin the season. This was a spot owned by Terrence Ross before he was sent to Orlando, then PJ Tucker’s spot before he went to Houston. With this contract, Norman looked primed to be our starting wing for years to come.

I mean, we drafted some raw defender from Indiana who spent most of his one college season on the sidelines. Maybe he’ll make for a good Norman Powell backup one day?

Alas, Norm went from starter to backup, to final man on the rotation, to out of the rotation, all in one short season.

I wrote about Norman a handful of times, pleading people to not give up on him. I even wrote a piece on how Playoff Powell could be a secret weapon. I still haven’t given up on him, but he undoubtedly went from - starting wing of the future - to - unplayable 23-year-old.

Let’s figure out where this went wrong, and why.

Shooting Woes

Norman could’ve been classified as a 3-and-D player before this season. Unfortunately, despite earning a large helping of open looks all season, he shot 28.5% from deep (2.7 attempts per game). This is down from last years’ 32.4% per game (2.3 attempts), and that’s even down from his rookie season, at 40.4% per game (1.8 attempts). 

His advanced shooting numbers don’t bring any surprises. He shot better at home than on the road and shot the three-ball better in wins than in losses.

The issue for me, besides the shots just simply not falling, is that he has zero in-between game. Obviously, statistics boast that threes and layups/dunks are the most efficient shots to take, and Norman followed that rule. But anyone who veers from a stat sheet and watches the games will know that every player needs some kind of mid-range decision-making arsenal. This is where Norman struggled.

His three’s weren’t falling, but guys would still run him off the line because they know how weak his in-between game was. If he actually took it to the rim, he finished 58.6% of the time. I’d reckon that a fair amount of these were fast-break dunks, but regardless of that, 58.6% is pretty solid for a 6’4 guard.

But if you look at his cumulative stats, you’ll see a trend that fits what I’m saying. Out of his every jump shot he took that wasn’t a three, he actually shot 44.1%. That’s a good in-between game, right? Well, only 15.8% of his total field goals were mid-range jump shots.

Although it was only his 3rd season in the NBA, Norm hit his rock bottom.

He suffered through career lows in FG%, 3P%, eFG%, along with career lows in rebounds, steals and points per game. For reference, his career minutes per game have gone as such: 14.8, 18.0, 15.2. Any stat that I didn’t mention is one that matches his 1st or 2nd year or has been barely surpassed by one or two decimals.

Podcast Time

As we did with CJ Miles and DeMar DeRozan, Jordan and I went at it again with Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka.

It was a super fun podcast and one of the most intriguing ones we’ve done so far. We talk about player comparisons for both, their respective futures with the team, and much more.

It’s unfortunate that Norman was given the 4-year $42-Million because if he was on a typical rookie contract it really wouldn’t look so bad. But for a guy that inked a large contract to instantly plunge out of the starting lineup and out of the rotation, it looks really bad. But as we talk about on the pod, his failures sure ain’t for a lack of trying. Serge on the other hand, well, you’ll hear.

Oh yeah, and congrats to Nick Nurse (we talk about that too).

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