The Portland Trail Blazers acquisition of Norman Powell from the Toronto Raptors at the deadline was an interesting win-now move. On an injury-riddled Raptors team, Powell averaged nearly 20 points per game. Now playing next to two primary scorers in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the fit is questionable, to say the least. Luckily for Portland, they have Derrick Jones Jr. to pick up the slack.
Portland Must Start Derrick Jones Jr. Over Norman Powell
For most of Powell’s career with Toronto, he was valuable coming off the bench. During his tenure, Powell played behind guys like DeMar DeRozan, Kawhi Leonard, and OG Anunoby. Despite this, as a primary scorer, he is starting next to two other guards who are averaging over 51 points combined.
Since the trade deadline, the Trail Blazers only have three players on their roster listed as guards. Other than the well-renowned backcourt, Anfernee Simons nurses the point guard role when Lillard is on the bench. However, as a wing, the Trail Blazers elected to start Powell over other forwards. Why is Powell starting? This question is for head coach Terry Stotts to answer.
Revisiting the Signing
After a subpar season with the Miami Heat, Derrick Jones Jr. proved he was more than just a dunker and signed a two-year, $19 million deal with Portland. This was one of the more underrated moves of the offseason. Portland allowed the fifth most points last season with an injury-riddled squad. The Trail Blazers are still not amazing on the defensive end but they are much more improved than in previous years. The defensive-minded Jones Jr. fit like a glove with this Trail Blazers squad as he also can shoot the ball at an average rate. He even started for the team immediately at the small forward spot before the trade deadline.
After the trade deadline, Jones Jr.’s productivity and minutes have gone down tremendously, and the Trail Blazers went from giving away around 114 points per contest to around 117 after the trade. The main reason the Trail Blazers are 10-11 since the deadline is the awful rotations from their coaching.
Powell has definitely made an impact since being acquired from Portland. However, that hasn’t exactly reflected amongst the team. Lillard did miss some time with injury but even with the combination of him, McCollum, and Powell starting together, the team is only 8-9 during that stretch. On the other hand, the Trail Blazers are 25-17 with Jones Jr. starting. Not to mention a lot of these games were without their best center in Jusuf Nurkic.
With the new acquisition of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, it does give the Trail Blazers more help defensively. However, this adds to the logjam of forwards on this Trail Blazers squad. Another good thing with Jones Jr. is that he isn’t very ball-dominant on offense either. Against some very talented Western Conference teams, standing a 6-foot-3-inches, Powell is not going to benefit against lengthy wings to the likes of Paul George, Nicolas Batum, and Dorian Finney-Smith.
How would Portland benefit from this?
With only four true guards on the lineup, Powell coming off the bench gives Portland another scoring guard. This further allows them to be much more flexible at the forward position. They can use the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Hollis-Jefferson, Robert Covington, and Nassir Little in many different lineups whenever necessary. Having three scorers in the starting lineup takes some pressure away, but it can also result in limited ball movement and poor scoring chances.
With Powell coming off the bench, and the Trail Blazers inserting a defensive-minded wing, they can focus on both ends rather than primarily on offense. When the Trail Blazers need a bucket late in the game it makes sense to insert a guy like Powell. However, the Trail Blazers would be much better off with Jones Jr., not Powell, playing next to Lillard and McCollum.
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