Powell Caps Off Strong Vegas Showing, Named To All-NBA Summer League First Team

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

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The Toronto Raptors went to Las Vegas excited to see what their rookies would do. The organization drafted point guard Delon Wright in the first round and shooting guard Norman Powell in the second and felt confident in both of them. Wright played extremely well in his summer league debut, but appeared in just two games because of a sore hamstring. Powell picked up the slack in a big way, turning heads along media row all week. Shortly after the team left Vegas, Powell was named to the All-NBA Summer League First Team, joining San Antonio’s Kyle Anderson, New Orleans’ Seth Curry, Chicago’s Doug McDermott and Phoenix’s T.J. Warren. He was the sole First Team selection from his rookie class. The 46th pick out of UCLA came to summer league unsigned. Only first round draft selections are given guaranteed contracts. After leading the Raptors in scoring in their first four games Powell was rewarded with his first professional contract with the Raptors. Powell averaged 18.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks over four games in Vegas. He shot 51 percent from the floor and 44 percent from beyond the three-point line. While he surprised many who were unfamiliar with his game, excelling in summer league was a goal he’d set for himself before touching down in sin city. “I was really focused on taking the next step,” Powell said. “I felt shorted, so I had really big chip on my shoulder about what I wanted to do, what I wanted to prove to people who had been saying I am a second rounder, or shouldn’t be here or I would be in the D-League or he’s not going to make an impact on any team because he’s undersized, this that or the other. I had a lot of fuel added to this fire of mine after the draft.” The recognition for his hard work and solid play is nice, but getting to call his mother after signing his contract is the real moment that will be tough to top. “It means a lot,” Powell said. “My mom has been the biggest supporter in my life. She’s driven all the way to Kentucky, all the way to Texas for games. She’s always there no matter what. She always has my back whether I’m right or wrong and I love her for it. “It’s kind of like my time and my way of giving back to her for all the times she had to deal with me growing up and all the headaches I've caused her, he continued. “It’s a blessing to see how happy she is and how proud she is of me.” This year’s rookie class had some bright moments, but most of the top draft picks were saddled with low shooting percentages and lots of turnovers. Powell stood out among his draft class thanks to his efficiency and defence. A 22-year-old senior, Powell is proud of his reputation as a defensive stopper, but isn’t thrilled with how his offensive game has been overlooked. “I have game on the offensive end,” Powell said. “I can put the ball in the basket. I have a variety of ways of doing that: in transition, off pick and rolls, getting to my midrange, getting to the basket. Different things like that. [I want to] go out there and stay in my role, but show I can make plays. Show I can be an offensive threat. It’s not only defence. That’s one of my strengths. I’m not shying away from that. [Defence is] what gets me on the floor. That’s what keeps me in the game, locking guys down and making hustle plays, but I do have an offensive side of me.” His summer league campaign was a nice way to force people to take a closer look at his skill set. With two months to go before reporting to Toronto for training camp, Powell will get to spend time with his family and soak up the rewards of his hard work before heading to Vancouver to train with Raptors assistant coaches and teammates Wright, Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo. One step closer to the regular season, Powell is eager to keep climbing the rookie ladder. “I know there’s more work to be done and I have to keep proving,” he said.