At 16 wins and 7 losses, the Eastern Conference second place Raptors are running well ahead of last year’s 56-win season, so there isn’t much to complain about in Toronto, but after watching this team easily handle their main challenger in the Atlantic Division, just maybe one Norman Powell should be asking when it will be his time in Toronto?
In Boston on Friday night Powell started his fifth game for the Raptors this season and for the fifth time he scored in double-digits. No one should be surprised either. Powell was outstanding as a rookie after the All-Star break last season and had a huge impact in Toronto’s opening playoff series win over the Pacers. The hot hand and solid defensive play this season is just a continuation from last year.
Head coach Dwane Casey has used Powell as a starter in order to give DeMarre Carroll the night off in back-to-back situations with solid success and squeezed out a handful of minutes in other games whether there has been a good reason to do so or not.
Powell has been ready to play every time. However, the backup small forward job was Terrence Ross’ job to lose and he’s been playing some of the best ball of his career. Casey and the Raptors have depth on the wing and it’s a problem, albeit a good problem for the Raptors.
Casey has put so much time in effort into developing Ross that he has to be genuinely happy to see the 25-year-old putting everything together this season. His shooting and decision-making are better, his turnover rate is way down (again) and his nose for steals and blocks has improved. Ross is having a good year.
Powell is having a better year.
If there is one thing that is biting the high scoring Raptors this season it’s their rebounding and while Ross has 3″ in height over Powell, Powell is tougher on the glass. In fairness, Powell plays tougher than most players. It’s what caught Casey’s attention last season and it’s why this second round pick got on the court in the first place.
Surprising to those that didn’t follow Powell’s brief D-League stint with the 905, he’s also a lot better ball distributor. When Powell was sent to Mississauga to get playing time early last season, then head coach Jesse Mermuys let him have significant minutes running the team at the point. Powell had a knack for it too and it shows as he’s racked up assists at double the rate of Ross or Carroll. Powell is the team’s fourth best player at dishing the ball.
Giving Powell more minutes isn’t going to be an easy change to make. He’s undersized at small forward and isn’t going to displace Carroll. Also, while Powell is handling wild fluctuations in minutes from game-to-game, Ross isn’t likely to do so well in an inconsistent role.
The Raptors are winning with Powell bouncing in and out of the rotation and he gives them a solid starter on the wing if any of their regulars goes down. That’s a luxury few teams can boast. However, Powell has earned more consistent minutes than he’s getting. It should be time for Powell to somehow someway get a bigger role.