Hello Blazer fans, Antonio here. Five games ago, the Blazers decided that it was time to make a move at the trade deadline. So when I opened up my phone and saw ESPN reporting a Portland trade with Toronto, I was not surprised. I was even less surprised when I saw that Rodney Hood was one of the ones gone. No big deal. But then, my eyes wandered to the next name.
Portland had traded one of their most valuable future assets for Normon Powell. I quickly went through the five stages of grief as I tried to recognize why Neil Olshey had made this move. As I tried to rationalize both moves, I decided to give the trade some time. Well, after four games and a 3-1 record, it’s time. Let’s take a deeper look.
So Who Is Norman?
Norman Powell is a better Gary Trent right now. Trent with Portland was shooting 41% from the field and 40% from three, while Powell shot 50% and 44% from three with Toronto. Norman is a better midrange player, better cutter, and better defender than Gary and averaged 19.6 points per game. The difference? Powell is 27. Trent is 22.
This lateral move for Portland is a win-now and win-soon. Gary might be as good as Norman in two or three years, but Damian Lillard does not have that time. GM Neil Olshey understood that, and is making a big push for the next few years.
Four Games in: The Good
Norman certainly is a scorer. With Damian Lillard out against the Magic in Powell’s debut, Powell wasted no time. He scored 26 points, the most ever in a Blazer debut. His quick three point shot looked pretty, and he played incredibly comfortable for a guy who had just met with the team the day before.
Through the first four games, Powell, Lillard, and CJ McCollum have all started, booting Derrick Jones Jr. to the bench and embracing the small ball play. With Powell starting, the offense has gone up, as has ball movement. With four elite shooters and the return of passing big man Jusuf Nurkic, The Blazers compiled 24 assists against Toronto and 27 against Detroit, well above their usual numbers.
The trade has also opened up room in the rotation. With Rodney Hood gone, space has been freed up for Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons. Little played 37 minutes in two games after the trade, but sprained his thumb against Orlando. Simons has played an average of 15 minutes since the trade, and is scoring about eight points per game.
Four Games in: The Bad
The Blazers slapped around some weak Eastern Conference teams in Miami, Orlando, Toronto, and Detroit, and looked good doing it. Then came Milwaukee. Against the Bucks, every bad part of the Blazers’ game reared its head. The defense was practically invisible. Giannis Antetokounmpo soared for 47 points on 21 shots. The Greak Freak shot a perfect 18-18 on his points inside the three point line, having his way in the paint.
Portland’s offense was slowed to a halt as the team shot 33% from two. Even though Milwaukee’s resident Dame-Stopper, Jrue Holiday, let Lillard score 32, the Bucks waltzed by Nurkic, Enes Kanter, and Robert Covington in the paint. Powell’s addition may have made them better in the moment, but Portland has still faltered to the top tier teams.
The Early Verdict?
I think that Norman Powell makes Portland much better, but not good enough to launch the team into the upper echelon of the NBA. I give the trade a “B” grade, as it will helped the Blazers win, but not thrive,
Next Up: Young and hungry OKC comes to town on Saturday night.
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