Philadelphia 76ers: Don’t leave Tampa without trading for Norman Powell

For many a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers, the idea of bringing home Kyle Lowry is just too good to be true.

A proud son of our fair city, Lowry played his high school ball at Cardinal Dougherty and took his services down the Mainline to play for then-relatively new head coach Jay Wright at Villanova.

While his tenure was not without some mild controversy, Lowry parlayed two successful seasons with the Wildcats into a spot in the 2006 NBA Draft, where he was selected 24th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Lowry was acquired by then-Rockets GM Daryl Morey in a three-team deal in 2009, ultimately made his way to Toronto in 2012 in exchange for Gary Forbes and a future first-round pick (eventually used on Steven Adams), and has since developed into one of the best pure point guards in the game – averaging 17.6 points and 7.1 assists a game over the past nine seasons.

Oh yeah, and Lowry can now add “NBA Champion” to his list of accolades (six All-Stars, 2015-16 All-NBA), as his 2018-19 squad was able to power through the Sixers via Kawhi Leonard’s quadruple-doink to win it all versus Golden State in their final run with Kevin Durant.

So, naturally, if Lowry is on the market, the Sixers would be the logical landing place for his services, right? I mean, the team doesn’t necessarily need a point guard per se, not with how well Ben Simmons is playing as of late, but they could certainly use another player who flirts with 20 points per game every time he takes the court, even it requires some serious alterations to Doc Rivers’ rotation.

But, hear me out, what if Lowry isn’t the perfect player for what the Sixers need right now? Lowry’s 34, an average at best 3 point shooter, and in the final year of a three-year, $90 million deal. While he’s certainly a plus defender from the point guard position even now, Lowry is going to cost a lot to acquire both financially and from an asset allocation standpoint (more on that here) and would likely require a lucrative, multi-year extension to remain with the team beyond the 2020-21 season.

Adding Lowry, especially without losing any of the team’s core players, would undoubtedly make the Sixers better right now and elevate their Championship odds considerably in the eyes of oddsmakers, but, ideally, Morey would be wise to use his assets to acquire a player in the same general age range as Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris (24-28) who could conceivably grow with the team moving forward.

Fortunately, the Raptors have a player who fits that bill to a T who very well may be available at the deadline even to their intraconference rivals.

Norman Powell is the two-way wing the Philadelphia 76ers desperately need.

When the NBA playoffs eventually roll around, Doc Rivers will naturally shrink down his Philadelphia 76ers rotation to roughly eight players.

While teams can typically get away with playing 10, 11, sometimes even 12 players in the regular season, in an effort to limit the time their starters have to spend on the court, when the “live bullets” of playoff basketball start to fly, getting that W, even if a starter has to play 40 minutes, becomes far more important.

Assuming the Sixers don’t make any changes and just opt to roll with their current lineup – which, ugh, would be a bad idea – their rotation would likely consist of Rivers’ incredibly effective starting five, plus Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, and Dwight Howard/Mike Scott, matchup dependent.

That’s… maybe not the best rotation.

If the Sixers opt to roll with that octet, they’re looking at a lineup that’s averaging roughly 111.1 points (assuming they roll with Howard), 43.9 rebounds, 23.4 assists, 5.9 blocks, and 8.4 steals a game over the course of the regular season, which, naturally, would go up ever so slightly with each player having a more expansive role.

Numerically speaking, that’s not too bad. But in practice, the Sixers are looking at an eight-player rotation that features three, maybe four two-way players, with Shake Milton serving as the team’s lone offensive sparkplug coming off the bench, and a trio of players in Thybulle, Howard, and Green who are solid defensively but can’t be reliably counted on to score at a double-digit clip.

Ideally, the Sixers would like to find a way to land a player(s) who is capable of giving them good shooting and scoring off the bench while not being an absolute liability on the defensive end of the court.

Allow me to introduce you to Norman Powell.

The 46th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft out of UCLA, Powell was traded on draft night alongside future teammate OG Ananoby to Toronto for point guard Greivis Vásquez (who?) and has since gone on to play all 403 of his professional games in a Raptors’ uniform. Though he’s a tad short to play off-ball guard by NBA standards at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Powell has rapidly proven himself a capable two-way wing who can score from anywhere on the field, all the while covering opposing players 1-4, as evidenced by his one-on-one coverage on Tobias Harris over the years.

Since Kawhi Leonard’s relatively scripted exit from The North, Powell has stepped up into a sixth man/semi-starter role for Nick Nurse’s squad, averaging 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals a game as one of the Raptors’ more reliable wings. Powell has also found his touch as a shooter from beyond the arc over the past two seasons, draining 41.3 percent of his 5.4 shots per game from beyond the arc.

So, naturally, with Lowry mere weeks away from his 35th birthday and in the final year of his contract, the Raptors would likely view Powell as the perfect partner for Fred VanVlett, right?

Not necessarily.

You see, at 27-years-old, Powell is the Raptors’ fourth-oldest player behind Lowry, Aaron Baynes, and Chris Boucher. His contract technically extends into the 2021-22 season, but only if he opts to pick up his $11.6 player option, which Powell probably won’t do, considering he’ll be a relatively high priority free agent if he hits the open market. With a slew of young guards like Matt Thomas and Terrance Davis already under contract and an uncanny pension for selecting future stars with any pick in the NBA Draft, the Raptors may be willing to sell high on Powell when his value is at an artificially elevated high in exchange for picks and/or young players who better fit the team’s current timeline.

After watching the 27-year-old San Diego native average 21.5 points over the month of February, all the while hitting 48.4 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, I can’t think of a better player to cash in some assets to acquire than Powell.

With Powell in the fray, the Sixers could rock a nine-man rotation in the playoffs with the UCLA product either coming off the bench or in the starting five in place of Seth Curry. Powell would instantly become the team’s second-best outside shooter, third-best wing defender, and the sort of two-way guard who could close out games without having to be swapped out every time someone goes to the line in an offense-for-defense swap.

Powell is capable of getting his own shot, dishing out to others, and crashing the boards for a rebound. He takes 40 percent of his shots without taking a dribble, including 4.7 of his 5.3 attempts from beyond the arc, but is also capable of scoring for himself either in the paint or from the midrange.

Outside of Ben Simmons, the Sixers don’t have a single guard who averages more than three shots from within five feet of the basket. In 2020-21, Powell takes an average of 4.2 from that range, with an additional 1.8 per game coming from the 5-9 foot range according to the NBA’s advanced stats.

Do you remember Zhaire Smith? Well, Powell is essentially the player interim GM Brett Brown thought Smith would become coming out to Texas Tech, albeit with a better outside shot and less impressive dunks.

And most importantly of all, even more so than his Championship pedigree, Powell is a 27-year-old who could conceivably play alongside Simmons, Embiid, and Harris for the remainder of his career.

Is that player worth a 2021 first-round pick? Yes. Is that player worth a 2021 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick? Yes. Heck, I’d even be willing to throw in 23-year-old Furkan Korkmaz alongside the requisite cap fillers in order to get a deal done if that’s something Masai Ujiri is interested in – anything to get Powell in a Sixers uniform without surrendering Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry, or Isaiah Joe.

Now, if the Sixers could also find a way to land a bigger forward to take up those Dwight Howard/Mike Scott minutes… eh, that’s a conversation for another day.

So, as the Philadelphia 76ers try once more to best the Toronto Raptors on the road for the first time since the Doug Collins-era, keep a keen eye placed on number 24 of the red, black, and white team. While I doubt even Daryl Morey could swing a trade in the middle of a back-to-back series, I sincerely wouldn’t mind it one bit if the Sixers flew back to Philly with Norman Powell on board for the back-half of the season, as his two-way game, knockdown 3 point shots and defensive versatility could be just what the doctor ordered to finally put the team over the top. While he may not have Kyle Lowry’s preexisting Philly pedigree, Powell could certainly grow to become similarly beloved with a strong second act with the Sixers.