Norm Powell has officially signed a 4-year/$42-million extension with the Raptors, due to kick in next summer. A 2nd-round pick in the 2015 draft at 46th overall, Masai Ujiri pawned off Greivis Vasquez in exchange for him and a 1st-rounder, and the reward has been plentiful. In Norm, Toronto has found a baller. His tenacious, hard-working and exciting style of play has become a boon for the Raptors, and the team keeps a hold of its most promising young player for the foreseeable future, while Powell never sniffs the free-agent market.
In two years, Powell's gone from being a potential training-camp casualty to an integral role player who's earned an opportunity for a significant bump in minutes. Despite an up-and-down sophomore season, Norm's offensive numbers were good as a starter: In just over 30 mpg, Powell averaged over 15 ppg on nearly 50% shooting, while shooting just under 40% from the arc. It's still uncertain whether Norm will be a starter this season, but I'd wager he ends up getting the 6th man role. Coming off the bench allows Powell to be the main man off the pine, putting the rock in his hands more often to attack the rim. Starting makes him a 3rd or 4th option who will have to play off Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan. Starter or not, what's important is the number of minutes Dwane Casey dishes out: Last year Powell averaged 18 a game, but it's fair to expect that number to swell around 30 minutes a night. By making the deal the front office evidently considers Powell an important player now and in the future. If Toronto pivots away from the main core in the next 2-3 years, it's a good bet that Powell will be an integral part of that change.
He is by no means a finished product. Powell's decision making with the ball is questionable at times, having a tendency of getting tunnel vision when putting the ball on the floor. He also needs to find more consistency on his 3-point shot (32.4% last season) Defensively, he was a little more hot-and-cold than many would have liked (-1.1 DBPM) but Norm has the tools to improve in that regard. He's a bit undersized against bigger guards and forwards, but his long wingspan and lateral quickness will arguably make him Toronto's best perimeter option going forward. Growing pains come with the territory for players who are still developing, but with more minutes and a continued strong work ethic, it's reasonable to expect improvement at the age of 24. With that said, there's no guarantee it happens. The difference between role players and core players isn't an easy gap to bridge, but the Raptors organization have to feel good about a player who's worked his ass off to make it to this point. With Demarre Carroll and PJ Tucker out of the equation, coach Dwane Casey will have to give Norm that opportunity.
Many ordinary people wouldn't complain about earning $3 million in 3-years of work, but that's a paltry sum for an NBA player. Powell opted to take the security of a guaranteed $30 million for 3 seasons while allowing himself an opt-out in the final year of the deal. If he manages to make good on his potential over the next few seasons, he'll have another opportunity to cash in on the free-agent market at the prime age of 28. There is the possibility that Powell may have cost himself a bit of cash by refraining from free-agency next summer, but that's the price he's willing to pay for getting a deal done now. It's also worth adding that there aren't many teams with a lot to spend, so entering free-agency would have been a bit of an uncertainty. By paying Powell slightly over the mid-level exception, the Raptors guarantee themselves (with current commitments) an ugly confrontation with luxury tax next summer. It's still too early to tell how the team will go about it, but trading Jonas Valanciunas is the first idea that comes to mind in how to duck the tax.
At the end of the day, the deal works out well for all parties involved. For fans, it's satisfactory to watch a player grow so much in two seasons. 2nd round picks are often an afterthought in the NBA, but Powell's bucked that trend by willing himself onto the team. He's become part of the identity of the Raps, and has left lasting memories on the city by delivering in big moments:
For at least four more years, We The Norm.