Portland Trail Blazers: Examining Derrick Jones Jr. and other expiring players

Derrick Jones Jr., Enes Kanter, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Derrick Jones Jr., Enes Kanter, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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Norman Powell, Portland Trail Blazers
Norman Powell, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

What should the Portland Trail Blazers do with Norman Powell?

The question for the Blazers in regard to Norman Powell is not whether or not the team wants him back, but how much of their salary cap they are willing to allocate to their back-court with Lillard and McCollum already set to make $43.8 and $30.9 million respectively next season.

Without boring you with salary cap gibberish, essentially, if the Blazers bring Powell back at his projected market value ($20 – $25 million) without making any trades, they’re going to have a very limited amount of money to spend to upgrade other parts of their flawed roster. However, letting Powell walk for nothing would be a disaster, as Portland gave up a significant trade chip in Gary Trent Jr. in order to acquire him.

As I see it, only one of CJ McCollum and Norman Powell have a place on this roster next year (barring a Damian Lillard trade) and I’m inclined to think that it’s going to be Powell.

Despite moonlighting at the small forward spot after McCollum returned from injury, Powell’s natural position is at shooting guard as he stands only 6’3. Norm is a better defender and finisher than McCollum and has already proven himself on the biggest stage as a member of the 2019 Raptors squad that won the championship. Like other Raptors’ developmental projects such as Pascal Siakam, he’s shown signs of improvement in every season he’s been in the NBA and was known in Toronto for his hard-work and winning mentality, encompassed by his “Understand the Grind” slogan.

While CJ is a much better playmaker—his handle and ability to shoot off the dribble are miles better than Powell’s—his subpar defense and mediocre shot selection, combined with the growing sense around the league that after eight seasons, him and Lillard may be “banging their heads on the ceiling” in terms of their potential as a 1-2 punch could lead Neil Olshey to opt for the more painful, yet cost-effective option and trade McCollum while retaining Powell. You can read more on potential McCollum trades here.