In the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors took an athletic scorer and defender in ULCA shooting guard Norman Powell. This kid seems to be more NBA ready than the typical rookie coming into the pros and has the potential to surprise if he is given the chance.
The 22-year-old senior progressed steadily over his four college seasons and last year averaged 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 34.6 minutes while shooting 45.6 percent from the field, 31.9 percent from three and 75.1 percent from the line.
At 6’4 and 215 lbs Powell has average size for an NBA guard, but his 6’11 wingspan and 40.5” maximum vertical jump give him a decided advantage at both ends of the court. Powell’s length allows him to play a lot bigger than the typical guard, finish over smaller players and defend multiple positions.
“On the court I am just a competitor,” Powell said. “I do whatever it takes to win whether it’s out there on the floor or cheering for my teammates. My role is to be the most competitive guy out there, the hardest working and look to get wins. I am a hard working guy, laid back and high character.
“My toughness and defense, that’s something that translates to the NBA really well and my athleticism, I am able to get up into guys and create on the break and finish at the rim and at the free throw line. Athleticism and defense are things you can go on from day one and compete.”
If he makes the roster, Powell would have the highest measured vertical jump of any player on the Raptors and his wingspan is significantly longer than either DeMar DeRozan or Terrence Ross. Powell has the raw tools to be an NBA shooting guard and the Updated Draft Scouting Report by Draft Express indicates he could become a multi-position shutdown defender.
A tremendously explosive leaper with great speed and unique strength for a guard, Powell’s most appealing attribute from an NBA perspective is his ability to make use of his athleticism, which translated into very prolific scoring numbers around the basket. He ended the season ranking among the most prolific transition scorers in all of college basketball. Considering that some of his weaknesses are improvable, Powell has more intrigue as an offensive player long-term than many of the seniors.
Defensively, Powell was solid as a senior possessing good lateral quickness, great length and active hands. Powell has promising tools on this end of the floor. His athleticism and length allows him to make impressive plays as a rebounder and scrapping for turnovers, but he doesn’t do either at an elite level, but there’s no question he has all the tools you look for in a multi-positional shut-down defender.
Like most potential NBA rookies, it should be anticipated that Powell will struggle playing against NBA talent early on. The Summer League should give an early indication if Powell is out of his depth and a hoped-for camp invite would give him his first taste of the tougher competition he has yet to face, but nothing is guaranteed for Powell just yet. At least President and General Manager Masai Ujiri didn’t suggest Powell was destined for the D-League or overseas on draft night like he did with DeAndre Daniels last summer.
Powell was an intriguing second round choice. It would be a mistake to assume this kid doesn’t have a chance to make an NBA roster in October.