We the Norm

on April 2016 | in Sports | by Dario Passarelli | @PapaDart | with No Comments

During his brief stay in the 6ix, Greivas Vasquez was well liked by media and fans alike. He was a fluid player with a pass-first mentality; he had a wonderful, infectious smile and he was very passionate about basketball and playing in this city. Years from now however, he might be best remembered for being “that person” who was traded for Norman Powell. The funniest part of that trade with the Milwaukee Bucks last year is that Powell wasn’t even the main part of that trade. Toronto cleared up $6.6M in cap space and will also be getting a 2017 first-round pick. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.

At 6’4″, Powell was known in college as a lock-down defender but he was undersized for a two-guard and his 3-point shot wasn’t good enough as it hovered around 35%. Trust me, 3-point shooting is vitally important in today’s game and you have to look no further than Golden State and the Splash Brothers to understand why. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the 22-year-old was picked in the second round, 46th overall. But it is completely normal to speculate why Toronto GM Masai Ujiri even wanted him as part of that draft day trade. Remember the Raptors already had a handful of young players in camp such as fan-favourite Bruno Caboclo, Lucas ‘Bebe’ Nogueira and their own 20th pick, Delon Wright.

Most likely Ujiri wanted to add a player for his new NBA Development League team the Raptors 905. <I interrupt this article to bring you this heavily opinionated question – Isn’t 905 the absolute stupidest nick-name for a sports team? I mean I thought Pelicans was bad (yeah, Pelicans really inspire fear like Bears, Lions and Raptors do) but 905… really? That’s just idiotic. Interruption ended> It was highly unlikely to think that Powell would make any contribution to the senior team as the people in front of him included all-star DeMar DeRozan, Terrance Ross and even Cory Joseph when the Raptors go into a two guard formation. The senior from UCLA would most likely wind up as most Raptor second round picks… the answer to some Matt Devlin trivia question.

But Powell took his opportunity and ran with it. We first noticed him during the summer where he was the only rookie to be named to the All-NBA Summer League First Team. Pretty impressive, but let’s get real for a moment. There is a saying about the summer league, “It doesn’t tell you who can play in the NBA, but it certainly tells you who can’t.”

Powell started off the season as expected with the Raptors 905. In January, after DeMarre Carroll and Terrence Ross were injured, the player now known as Mr. Serious got an opportunity to play. He did struggle offensively, but was solid on defence. To help his shooting, he was sent down to the 905 between games to help build his confidence up. Possibly the biggest take away from that experience was not the added time he got to practice his offence, but the fact that the leaders of the team, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were there that night in the stands watching the 905 game to cheer and support their young teammate.

By the end of the season he not only played in 49 games, he started in 24 of them. He plays with the poise of a seasoned vet which has ranked him ahead of other players now in Casey’s rotation. With a healthy team heading into the playoffs his minutes may have gone down but he never complained and has always been ready. As the team struggled during the first few games of the playoffs, the unflappable rookie has been called upon more and more and boy has he delivered. He was one of Toronto’s main catalysts in outscoring Indiana 25-9 in Game 5’s dramatic fourth quarter comeback giving the Raptors a 3-2 series lead.

Half a season and this short playoff run is too small a sample size to determine what kind of career this kid is going to have. But with his fearless attitude and strong work ethic it isn’t too far-fetched to think Powell will not only give the coaching staff a difficult time in deciding who gets minutes, but with such wonderful poise, he is battling for those crucial minutes to close out games as well. What a wonderful problem to have.

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