The Portland Trail Blazers made a big move at the 2021 NBA trade deadline to acquire Norman Powell from the Toronto Raptors.
The move was bittersweet for Blazers fans, as talented 22-year-old guard Gary Trent was shipped out as part of the Powell package. So was former playoff hero Rodney Hood. But Blazers team president Neil Olshey seems high on Powell's potential and offered a glowing scouting report of Powell in the aftermath of acquiring him.
"Well, you know he is a high-level competitor, won a championship in Toronto in a great backcourt, sharing the backcourt with Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry," Olshey said on Thursday. "He is one of the top 3-point shooters in the league, he can create his own shot. He is a dynamic finisher, he on pace to be one of two 50/40/90 guys.
The defense seemed to be the focus for Olshey. While Powell is obviously good on offense, as the numbers prove, Olshey isn't worried about how the team, which ranks sixth in offensive efficiency on the year, will fare on that side of the ball.
However, the defense for the Blazers hasn't been good this year, and Olshey thinks Powell's length along with the return of Jusuf Nurkic could provide a boost to the club.
"I think the goal of the preseason was to get closer to league average, anywhere between 15 to 20th in defense, and I thought that was realistic," Olshey said. "Quite honestly, not a sandbag, but like as accommodating as we can be but at least show enough growth from 27th.
"We have the third hardest schedule after the All-star break, we haven’t gotten off to a good start defensively, but the addition of McCollum, Norman Powell, the return of Nurk, gives us a 10-deep rotation and a lot more athletic defensive-minded players. And I think the goal is to be top 15 from tomorrow night, or hopefully tonight on, and leading that all the way into the playoffs.
Olshey certainly has a point there. The Blazers can already outscore most teams in the NBA on any given night. If they can even marginally improve the defense with Powell and Nurkic, they will have a chance to make a deep postseason run. Even Magic Johnson agrees.
The Blazers' first test for their newer-look defense will come on Friday against the Orlando Magic. That should be a nice tune-up game for them even without Damian Lillard, as the Magic are extremely shorthanded.