Powell Quickly Finds His Place In Portland's Rotation After Trade

It only took two games into his career as a Portland Trail Blazer for Norman Powell, acquired at the trade deadline from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Rodney Hood and Gary Trent Jr., to ruin a jersey. He says he doesn’t go through jerseys very often, but after missing a pair of clutch free throws with Portland leading by five with 26.4 seconds to play versus his former team just a few days after being traded, he calmly gripped the collar of his gray “Earned” edition jersey and proceeded split it in two as he walked back to the bench.

“Dame and CJ were giving me a hard time about my jersey,” said Powell. “I’m usually more calm and tame than that, but I think there’s a lot of emotion with it just because you want to make those free throw so badly because you’re playing against your former teammates.”

Those two missed free throws, which he would make up for a few possessions later with a 2-of-2 trip to the line, constitute his only real on-court difficulties through his first three games as a Trail Blazer. Sure, being traded for the first time in his career might have stung a bit, especially after he was told by his agent not long before the trade that he was staying put, and joining up with a team in the middle of a road trip probably isn’t ideal, but as far as the basketball is concerned, the first days have been a resounding success.

“I feel good, I feel like the transition has been really easy,” said Powell. “The coaches, the guys have made it real easy to fit in. I feel like the more time I spend with them, the more practices we get in, the more games, I’ll start to feel better with the chemistry, the flow of the game, the play-calling and rotations on defense. I’m liking it so far.”

It’s hard to argue with the results -- Portland is 3-0 since acquiring Powell-- nor does it seem like the 6-3 guard/forward has only been with the team for less than a week rather than months.

In three games, all starts, Powell is averaging 16.3 points on 52 percent shooting from the field and 58 percent shooting from three, 2,7 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.0 assists and 1.0 blocks in 32.1 minutes. His defensive rating is 101.5, seven points better than the next closest teammate, and his offensive rating of 119.4 is first on the team, though it’s only ever so slightly higher than Damian Lillard’s, who is in the midst of a historically efficient season.

Granted, it’s an incredibly small sample size and the quality of the teams Portland has played since trading for Powell has been wanting, but those provisos don’t change the fact that he’s looked every bit like the player Portland hopped he’d be.

“I think he’s fitting in perfectly, fitting in really easy,” said Lillard. “He gives us another guy who can handle the ball and attack the rim. Typically for us, I’m one of the only guys who plays in the paint off the dribble and he’s a slasher, he can play in pick and roll, he can make jumpers. He makes us even more versatile on the wing.

“Defensively, able to block shots and get steals and he’s competitive. He cares about winning and contributing to the team, so I think all with of those characteristics, it’s been a smooth transition. I feel like we haven’t had to go our of our way to try and make him fit, he just fits into our team.”

The Trail Blazers will eventually lose a game with Powell on the roster -- they face the Bucks, Thunder, Clippers and Jazz in the next week -- and the longer he’s on the team, the more opportunity opponents will have to scout how Portland plays with him in the lineup. But he’s also going to get more comfortable with his new team, particularly when it comes to playing off of Lillard and CJ McCollum, and is now playing for a team in the thick of the playoff race, so there’s plenty of reason to believe he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do as a Trail Blazer.

“I want to just build on where I came in and started,” said Powell. “The coaches and the guys really talking to me about having a defensive presence, using my voice, helping anyway I can on that end. And helping CJ and Dame, I think I can be a guy who can come in and help play-make, have them play off the ball a little bit, shoulder the load that way.

“Just a guy that they can have finishing plays on the other end, catching and shooting, driving the basket when they draw so much attention. So being another guy to make plays and be a threat out there. I think I’m going to fit perfectly playing off them.”