On Thursday, Norman Powell became the latest NBA player to find out just how much it pays to be a worthy competitor these days.
After the lengthiest holdout for quite some time, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Powell and the Toronto Raptors agreed on a four-year, $42 million extension that will begin with the 2018-19 season and keep the the guard under contract through at least the conclusion of the 2020-2021 season. He will have a player option on the 2021-2022 season.
More than anything else, the re-signing of Powell serves as the latest example of teams in each conference committing major dollars to keeping their cores intact. Prior to re-signing Powell, earlier this summer, the Raptors inked Kyle Lowry to a three-year, $100 million contract just one season after signing DeMar DeRozan to a five-year, $139 million deal. After re-signing Lowry, the club also re-signed free agent forward Serge Ibaka to a three-year, $65 million deal and C.J. Miles to a three-year, $25 million pact.
In other words, over the past two summers, the Raptors have made more than $365 million in salary commitments, while the club still has hefty commitments to Jonas Valanciunas and C.J. Miles.
While it would be easy to look at the Raptors and wonder why they would commit such hefty sums in aging players such as Lowry and Ibaka, their choice is fairly easy to make. Although the Powell deal puts the Raptors guaranteed payroll at about $126 million (well above the $119 million luxury tax threshold), the club now finds itself in the unenviable predicament of being faced with tough choices. Teams rarely get better by letting talent walk out the door for free, and the Raptors find themselves so far above the league’s $99 million salary cap that allowing Powell to walk away for nothing in return would have done little to help the fortunes of a team that has cemented itself as a perennial contender in the Eastern Conference.
As it relates to Powell specifically, the 24-year-old showed appreciable signs of growth last season. With DeMarre Carroll being traded to the Brooklyn Nets this past summer, the starting small forward spot has been vacated. As the Raptors compete in the preseason, Powell and the aforementioned Miles seem to be the most likely to replace Caroll in the team’s starting lineup. In 18 minutes per game last season, Powell averaged 8.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists. He also converted 35 percent of his three-point shots. Since being drafted with the 46th overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, Powell has proven to be the type of player head coach Duane Casey covets. From the defensive standpoint, Powell yields little to opposing guards, but it’s his shooting that has been a revelation. During the final month of the regular season last year, Powell converted 23 of his 51 looks. The Raptors, obviously, are hoping that the proficient shooting wasn’t an aberration.
Some around the team are convinced that the trading of Carroll to Brooklyn in what amounted to a salary dump was done to serve two purposes: (1) to rid the team of the remaining $30 million due to Carroll over the final two years of his contract and (2) to free up some minutes at the swingman position to allow additional playing time for some of the younger pieces brought in by general manager Masai Ujiri over the past few years.
With Powell finally having come to terms with the Raptors on a new deal, the third-year guard and the team can focus on more important matters—mainly toppling the Boston Celtics atop the NBA’s Atlantic Division.
Of all teams in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors are the one that has enjoyed the most continuity. With the new faces in Cleveland and Boston, the Raptors will head into the 2017-18 season betting that their familiarity with one another will help them rise toward the top of the conference once again.
Fortunately for Norman Powell, that prospects includes a brand new four-year deal and an implicit promise to be one of the team’s principal players for years to come.
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