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Swingin’ Wings: Norman Powell makes a statement

The Raptors are finally back at full strength! What does it mean for Toronto’s wing depth? Yes, questions remain.

NBA: Miami Heat at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-20 Toronto Raptors are not only defending their championship, they’re also replacing two starters at key positions on the wing. Each week on Swingin’ Wings, we’ll be tracking the progress of those possible replacements.

November 27-December 3

It’s been an eventful week since the last time we were here! The Raptors played four games, including a ridiculous win over the (maybe fraudulent?) Utah Jazz and a slug-it-out loss against the (maybe really good?) Miami Heat. Norman Powell set a career high; Serge Ibaka came back from injury; and then, finally, Kyle Lowry came back too!

With the Raptors’ key pieces all back, players such as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Terence Davis might see their opportunities reduced. I hope that won’t be the case; those guys played extremely well while the Raptors were short-handed, and they earned those minutes. And I don’t think playing Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet ~38 minutes a night is a good idea.

And yet, in Lowry’s first game back, he and VanVleet played 41 and 43 minutes, respectively (in an OT game, to be fair).

So we’ll see how it shakes out. For now, let’s look back at the week that was.

Who Did What?

OG Anunoby started every game at the three last week, and was solid if not flashy.

Norman Powell started the first three games at the two, until Lowry came back against the Heat; Fred VanVleet slid over from PG, and Powell went back to the bench, and that looks to be the usual lineup for Toronto.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Terence Davis each averaged about 22 minutes off the bench in the first three games of the week, then each played fewer than 15 against Miami.

Malcolm Miller filled it up in garbage time against the Knicks — 13 points on 4-of-5! — but didn’t contribute anything in short stints against Utah and Orlando.

Stanley Johnson, Matt Thomas and Patrick McCaw remain sidelined with injuries.

Wing Stat of the Week: 19

That’s how many points Norman Powell scored in the third quarter against the Orlando Magic on Friday, outscoring the Magic by seven points himself as the Raptors — down by seven at halftime — took control of the game, winning the quarter 26-12. Powell finished the night with 33, a career high, and the Raptors won 90-83.

Wing Highlight of the Week

Three of our swingin’ wings hooking up on one play? You know it just has to be this one:

What are the Wings Saying?

Norman Powell, on the team re-adjusting now that it’s back to full strength:

When guys go out, [other] guys step up, guys get more minutes, guys get more opportunities, and we were able to find a rhythm with the rotation that was going on when Serge and Kyle were out. Now that they’re back, it’s a little readjustment, for them guys to get adjusted to the way we were playing, just get their feel and rhythm back... but you know, it’s good, it’s early in the season, hopefully those guys will be able to get readjusted quickly and we’ll be able to get back into that flow and rhythm that we had early on with all of us.

Powell again, after the Magic game, on the team’s defensive intensity:

I think everybody’s been really tied in to what we’re doing, everybody’s really focused on how we’re changing defenses, who’s guarding who, where we need to be, helping one another, communicating in and out of timeouts, and when we see something, an adjustment that needs to be made — especially in the first half, we were a little slow on the commutations and rotating and we were able to pick it up in the second half — but everybody’s really locked in and tied in to what we’re doing.

Finally, Powell again on the “everybody eats” aspect of the team:

It’s amazing, you know, especially with the way we’ve been playing, guys have been [playing with] the next man up mentality, with our vets out, so we just continue to try to building winning habits and go to the guys who go out there and leave it out there on the floor, and that’s what everybody’s doing. So on any given night, the way this team is, we’re very unselfish, we play hard, we’re tough, we’re looking to leave it all out on the floor, that’s what we’ve been doing and it’s [led to] really good results for us.

What’s Coach Saying?

Nick Nurse didn’t talk about the wings much this week, but he did sum up the team’s combination of swagger and smarts quite nicely following the Magic game:

It’s pretty good, I think this team feels like, when we take the floor, we have an opportunity to win. I think we know we’re gonna play pretty solid defense, and we’re gonna try t make the right reads on offense. If you got the shot, you take it, if you draw two, you get off it. And they do a pretty good job of that. And I don’t think it’s anything great offensively, I don’t see the ball flyin’ around and cuts and all this stuff and that, but I think they’re just making a lot of really good reads and sharing the ball.

What Are the Rest of us Saying?

Rondae Hollis-Jefferon showed some tremendous passing last week, and Raptors Twitter noticed:

Wing of the Week: Norman Powell

It could be argued that last week’s winner, Norman Powell, was a bit undeserving. It could easily have gone to Terence Davis or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

This week, I don’t think there’s much doubt that it belongs to Norman Powell! Sure, he was a mere 2-for-8 against the Knicks, but hey, that was Fred VanVleet’s and Pascal Siakam’s night. Powell scored 33, 15 and 23 against Orlando, Utah and Miami, respectively; against Miami he scored two huge three-pointers (maybe he was out of bounds on one of them, but it was still a ballsy shot) in the final two minutes to force overtime, and he pulled in eight much-needed boards in that one as well.

All in all he averaged 19.5 points on 54% shooting, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 steals across the four games, and that’s good for Wingman of the Week!