The stretch run of the NBA off-season is gearing up — free agency begins July 1st at the stroke of midnight (EST) — and that means the clock is ticking on the Toronto Raptors dealing Norman Powell, who had a disappointing third season after signing a four year, $40 million deal last October.
Powell’s new deal kicks in on July 1st, meaning he’s still owed just over a million bucks ($1.4m to be exact) against the Raptors’ salary cap right now. The caveat in dealing him is getting his new team to accept that aforementioned $40 million price tag — and that’s no easy task.
First, you need to find a team with the cap space, and one which is willing to dissolve that space with his contract beginning next year (July 1st for the purposes of this discussion). Second, you need a team that makes sense roster-wise for Powell to be traded to, obviously. Third, the Raptors might need to attach incentives to Powell in order for a team to accept his contract (much like we saw last season with DeMarre Carroll and the Brooklyn Nets) and those available incentives are few and far between at the moment.
One final thing to note: the Raptors either have to trade Norm’s $1.4 million deal to a team who, in the current 2017-18 season (2018-19 and its new salaries begin July 1st), has the space available and is willing to pay him over the next four years, or trade him to a team who will match the current $1.4 million deal within the 120% NBA salary rule.
While the Raptors have all of their draft picks (with none incoming) for the foreseeable future, I doubt the front office would like to go without first round picks in consecutive drafts, and given the current fragile state of the roster’s future, I highly doubt they would give up anything from future drafts either.
All in all, the Raptors need the magic of team president Masai Ujiri’s bargaining skills. These scenarios are the best I could do within those guidelines named above — although those guidelines and the ensuing scenarios are more within the realm of reality and not necessarily strictly hypothetical — in which case the possibilities are seemingly endless.
For instance, Toronto could trade him to the Warriors if both teams wanted to — hypothetically. In shorthand, when it comes to trade scenarios — if there’s a will there’s a way. But we’re not going to operate on those terms. We’ll operate with reality (and those guidelines) in mind.
Toronto trades: Norm Powell
Chicago trades: 2020 Chicago 2nd round pick
Chicago has the ability to absorb Norm’s current price tag wholly, meaning they would not need to match salaries. In Chicago’s case, they could have concerns when it comes to resigning Zach LaVine, coming off an ACL tear, to a max-level contract — something he is likely to garner from eager rebuilding teams.
Given their prudent deal-making in the last two seasons, Powell could provide a cheaper option at the two guard spot next to soon-to-be third year guard/forward Denzel Valentine. If they are as committed to Lauri Markkanen as it seems, perhaps a max-level LaVine isn’t in their future. It seems unlikely, but it is possible.
If Chicago renounces all of its cap holds and denies all of its team options, they will potentially have over $40 million in cap space, meaning Powell’s new extension wouldn’t necessarily kill their chances of making a free agent signing.
Toronto trades: Norm Powell
Dallas trades: Warriors 2019 top-55 protected 2nd round pick
When I first began researching this scenario, I thought it would be a shot in the dark. By the end, I found Dallas to be a serious destination for Powell — one that could make both teams happy(ish).
Dallas could potentially have nearly $54 million in cap space on July 1st, and they already have almost $14 million of space in the current 2017-18 season. They, like Chicago, wholly absorb Powell onto their roster for the low price of a top-55 protected second round pick from the Golden State Warriors.
Dallas also has a couple question marks at the shooting guard position. Wes Matthews broke his leg last season, two years after tearing his ACL, and three years after tearing his Achilles. His legs are in bad shape, and unfortunately for the Mavericks, it doesn’t look like he’ll turn down his $18.6 million player option for next season. He’ll be on the team, but who knows whether he’ll be able to provide quality play.
Before we talk about Powell, let’s get Luka Doncic out of the way. He more than likely will not be playing either guard position next season (don’t quote me). He and Harrison Barnes will likely be lining up next to a new-age, rim-running centre in the likes of Tyson Chandler, or the newer and shinier Clint Capela (or, a more likely target: DeAndre Jordan). So, while the Mavs have Doncic, he likely won’t factor into the problem at shooting guard.
Enter our playoff hero, Norman Powell. Yes, Dallas will have $28 million (plus a ton of minimum-level players) gobbled up between Powell and Matthews, both high risk—high(ish) reward type players and yes, that could pose a problem next season specifically. However, after next season, Matthews will more than likely hit the road, leaving Powell as the sole shooting guard among a ton of G League level players at the same position. So, should Dallas act like a forward thinking team and consider this predicament, they could jump on the opportunity to have a potential 3-and-D player at a cost of $10 million per year.
By the by, the cap is set to jump to $107 million by the time Matthews comes off Dallas’ books in 2019. That $10 million contract won’t be that bad by then.
Toronto trades: Norm Powell
Atlanta trades: Isaiah Taylor
This scenario is highly unlikely. Travis Schlenk is clearly making decisions to become a 3D-printer version of the Warriors (I might copyright that term by the way). Maybe one day (in the next two days) Schlenk wakes up and sees Powell as a shorter Draymond Green. Should he do that, Isaiah Taylor fits the bill for a trade.
Matching contracts means the Raptors won’t have to give up anything and this hinges on the Hawks front office falling in love with Powell. Again, I don’t see that happening, but this is the way it could happen, if it should happen.
So, now that we’ve played vulture on these poor rebuilding teams’ cap spaces, let’s take a peek at a team that could potentially use a functioning Powell, and one that has the room to take on his upcoming contract.
Toronto trades: Norm Powell
Indiana trades: Future second-round pick
Indiana fits each of the three guidelines mentioned above: they have the cap space this season (just over $5 million), they will have cap space next season to absorb his $10 million salary, and they could theoretically use his skill set at his position.
Lance Stephenson is unlikely to be resigned after the Pacers declined a very small $4.1 million team option on him for next season, opening the exact position on the roster that Powell could fill. The likely reason for declining Stephenson was to open as much cap space as possible to go after a marquee free agent. But I can’t imagine Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard making significant changes after the current roster won nearly 50 games last season.
They’ll have a ton of cap room next year (nearly $33 million total projected by RealGM’s expectations) to still make either a single big signing, or several smaller signings — something more in line with a playoff team tinkering with its chemistry — even after taking on Powell’s contract.
By this time, you may be playing with your own versions of Powell trades, trying to find the perfect fit and the perfect cap situation — but you may not be wondering: why are we trading Powell?
Toronto is currently pressed against the luxury tax limit, and has spilled over it this past season. Toronto also has an upcoming free agent — whom they would love to keep — that will get a ton of attention on the open market: Fred VanVleet.
In order to limit the luxury tax bill next season, while also keeping VanVleet, there must be some salary cuts. Powell is the most likely target in this scenario given his play last season and the emergence of other options. As important as he’s been; as fiery as his time with the Raptors was, he’s the odd man out as of right now.
He saved Toronto’s collective ass more than once, and we owe him a grand adieu should he go, but the future of our point guard situation is far more precarious than that of our wing spots. Holding onto VanVleet is priority number one this off-season. Let’s see what Ujiri can do.
Numbers, projections and info taken from:
RealGM — Cap projections
Spotrac.com — 2017 Cap Space
Spotrac.com — 2018 Cap Space
Pro Sports Transactions — Future Raptors Draft Picks