A second round pick in the 2015 NBA draft, Norman Powell was originally nothing more than a flyer with a chance to stick around as a deep bench player. In his first two seasons, though, Powell proved to be quite the draft day steal.
The Toronto Raptors were so impressed with his performance that they signed him to a 4-year/$42 million extension in October of 2017.
Cut to today and while the Raptors are sitting pretty at 49-17 (good for first in the East), Powell has seen his star fade a bit. Despite the impressive extension, he’s averaging just 16.1 minutes per game this year.
Though he remains in Toronto’s rotation, the third year swingman is just 11th on the team in minutes. So what gives? Did Powell hit a developmental wall? No, the team around him has just become almost unfathomably deep with young talent.
At 24 years old, Powell is still quite young. However, above him in Toronto’s minutes per game ranks are a slew of even younger players like OG Anunoby (age 20, 20.5 MPG), Pascal Siakam (age 23, 20.2 MPG), Fred VanVleet (age 23, 19.5 MPG), and Jakob Poeltl (age 22, 18.4 MPG).
Few NBA teams have 11 players in their rotation, let alone an 11th guy averaging 16.1 minutes per game. That Powell is buried this far down the depth chart says more about the embarrassment of riches on this Raptors team.
Were Toronto a worse team, there’s no doubt that Powell would see the court more often. However, with the organization seeing a real shot to dethrone Lebron and the Cavaliers, Raptors coach Dwayne Casey is beholden to prioritize winning over development.
That being said, it could be argued that getting to play in such a competitive and well-run environment is just as beneficial for Powell’s development as getting in a few extra minutes each game.