Norman Powell is not the biggest fish available this offseason but he would be a fantastic addition to the Dallas Mavericks. He is a 6’3 swing man with a 6’11 wingspan. The diminutive height may scare some as a player that short would ideally be a secondary creator, which Powell is not. However, he has a history guarding much bigger guards and wings. He could also be the point of attack defender that the Mavericks have been unable to successfully secure with Delon Wright and Josh Richardson the last two years.
Powell is a pure shooting guard despite having spent a ton of minutes at small forward so far in his career. He has become an elite shooter. Over the last three seasons he has made 348 of 859 3-point attempts for a 40.5 percentage. This season he averaged 18.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game on stellar shooting percentages of 47.7 percent from the floor, 41.1 percent from three, and 87.1 percent from the free throw line.
He is an extremely low turnover player as he has never averaged higher than 1.7 turnovers per game for a season. He is not an all defensive level defender but he would be the Mavericks best defensive guard.
He is an absolute sniper. He would be replacing Tim Hardaway Jr. because it would make very little sense to have both so this skill is a requirement. Hardaway is actually his most similar player according to Basketball Reference through his first five years so there would be some synergy in him replacing Hardaway.
Powell is quite a bit more effective at getting to the rim than Hardaway.. For his career, 32.4 percent of Powell’s shots have come within three feet of the basket with 27.5 percent coming this year as a much higher usage scorer. Hardaway’s career rate is 19.5 percent but that number has fallen to 14.5 percent over the last two years as he has turned into more of a pure gunner.
Defensively he could also represent a pretty large upgrade over Hardaway. While shorter, Powell is much longer with his 6’11 wingspan. This length allows him to play much larger than his height. Also while Hardaway spent large amounts of his formative years in the NBA wasteland that was the 2010’s New York Knicks, Powell developed in Toronto and has made the playoffs every year of his career.
Nick Nurse may very well be the best coach in the NBA. He also is one of the most innovative defensive minds in the NBA. This has made Powell develop great defensive habits and allowed him to try multiple defensive systems.
Size and playmaking. One of the biggest issues with Hardaway is that he is neither a wing defensively NOR a secondary playmaker. While shooting is paramount around Luka Doncic, if his secondary guard cannot make plays, it severely hampers the rest of the offense. Dallas has so many limited offensive players.
Powell does not fall into this group, but he also is not creating offense for the Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smiths of the world. He averaged a career high of 1.9 assists per game this year. That is not exactly an impressive number for a player who would be asked to be the starting shooting guard.
His wingspan does allow him to make up for many of the issues his height creates. But he is not an elite wing defender who would allow Finney-Smith to move down to a more appropriate position as a secondary wing defender.
Fit with the Mavericks
He is a fantastic fit as a Hardaway upgrade. He is a more explosive athlete and a better free throw shooter. Hopefully he would become the late game free throw shooter of choice. Given his current team’s situation he might actually be an even better fit. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will combine to make a little over $70 million next year. That number only goes up over the next two years.
The Trail Blazers used their best trade chip in Gary Trent Jr. in order to trade for Powell. If they do not resign him they have no way of improving substantially over the next three years and the Damian Lillard era in Portland may very well be over. However, if they do resign him they will have over $90 million a year tied up in players 6’3 or shorter. They also do not have full bird rights on Powell meaning they would have to clear cap space to sign him to a significant contract.
Sign and trading Powell with Jusuf Nurkic for Kristaps Porzingis would give them a new look and hope for a different result. They would be able to sell Lillard on the potential of a return to form for the “unicorn.” In the event of a sign and trade for Porzingis the Mavericks should be able to maintain max or near max cap space in the attempt to improve the team through another move. They would also maintain enough room to complete their own sign and trade of Hardaway
Powell is not the biggest fish in this free agent pond but he is certainly a valuable catch. Any fisherman who has been as unsuccessful as Dallas has recently should be thrilled with any catch.