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Don’t sleep on Norman Powell this year in fantasy basketball

The Raptors guard is in line for more play time which is a terrific thing for fantasy managers.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Let’s start with some facts. Norman Powell is a 6-foot-3, 27-year-old guard for the Toronto Raptors. He’s currently being drafted outside the top 150 on average on ESPN’s draft boards. He’s rostered in 10% in ESPN leagues. He is not listed as a starter on the Raptor’s depth chart.

However, Norm Powell is both real basketball good, but also fantasy basketball good. And, his fantasy value could skyrocket this season.

Last season, Powell played the sixth most total minutes on the Raptors. Nine Raptors played at least 1,000 minutes in 2019-2020 (in descending order): Pascal Siakam (most total minutes played), Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, Norm Powell, Terence Davis, Marc Gasol, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Three of those nine players are no longer on the Raptors (Ibaka, Gasol, and RHJ). Now, that’s two bigs and a wing, so it’s not like Powell would fill their minutes automatically, but with Kyle Lowry one year older and newly re-signed VanVleet running the offense when Lowry sits, and with Powell being exactly the type of shooter you want out on the floor in the New NBA, it’s a safe bet he’s going to play even more in 2021.

Powell played 1,479 total minutes last season, which is basically about what Patty Mills or Landry Shamet played, to give you some context. Lots of players played 1,400 minutes. Out of all those players, though, only five of them shot 39% from three and 49% from the floor overall:

  1. Khris Middleton (#37 Average Draft Position on ESPN, 99% rostered, 21st on the Player Rater last season, ESPN Basic)
  2. TJ Warren (#48 ADP, 95% rostered, 48th PR)
  3. Seth Curry (#130 ADP, 23% rostered, 115h PR)
  4. OG Anunoby (#144 ADP, 17% rostered, 71st PR)
  5. Norm Powell (#164 ADP, 10% rostered, 109th PR)

Those are five top 125 guys right there and are players you know will have significant roles on their teams this year. Curry, Anunoby, and Powell are all being undervalued based on that list above: volume + efficiency + outside shooting = good fantasy player. (Anunoby gives you other counting stats, and he too could have a monumental fantasy year this season as well.)

It gets better for Powell. Out of everyone in the NBA last year who averaged at least 10 field goal attempts per game (125 players total), only EIGHT players had a better True Shooting percentage than Norm Powell: John Collins, Hassan Whiteside, JJ Redick, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jonas Valanciunas, Davis Bertans, Maestro Damian Lillard, and James Harden. You could argue that the bigs shouldn’t count because of their interior scoring, meaning that Powell would be among the very best wing shooters in the NBA last season.

The ninth player on that list of best TS% while taking 10 shots a game? Khris Middleton.

Now ask yourself how many players on that list above are highly rostered in fantasy?

Norman Powell is possibly an elite shooter, and he suddenly finds himself on a team surrounded by other good shooters (everyone except Boucher is a 35+ 3PT% shooter), and with lots of minutes to grab. While opposing teams are busy dealing with Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, and VanVleet, players like Powell, Davis, and Anunoby (who’s developing into a beast) should tend to get open shots and more opportunities.

Yet another bonus for Powell in fantasy: The man can play defense. If you look at every player who played at least 30 games last year, Powell’s 104.6 defensive rating is tied for 11th best in the NBA with Marcus Smart. (Kawhi Leonard was next at 104.7.) Now, that doesn’t mean that Powell is the 11th best defender in the NBA, and defensive rating is extremely team and context dependent, but that list includes elite defenders like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, LeBron James, Siakam, Lowry, Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Jayson Tatum. It’s not all noise.

Norman Powell is a good defender, was one of the most efficient shooters in the NBA last season, and his role is due to get bigger for the Raptors. For a “sleeper,” he seems like a pretty safe bet to me.

If you’re stymied in your fantasy drafts this year, I recommend looking at which Raptors are available, because I see a lot of fantasy value on that team this season.