Portland Trail Blazers: Re-grading the Norman Powell – Gary Trent Jr trade

A lot has happened on the margins of the Portland Trail Blazers roster over the last six-twelve months, but none more so than the trade that sent Gary Trent Jr and Rodney Hood to the Toronto Raptors for Norman Powell.

The Blazers didn’t make any noise in last year’s playoffs, but this move was potentially made with bigger moves in mind.

Let’s re-grade it from the Portland Trail Blazers point of view

At the time of the trade, the Blazers were 25 and 18 and had so far had a middling season. A great 7 and 4 start to the year was lost after serious injuries to CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic.

Replacement big man Enes Kanter and Damian Lillard helped the team recover with six wins on the bounce, but then four losses in a row had them back at 18 and 14. Trent, a key member of the bubble in 2020, was actually having a massive start to the season, shooting 41.6 percent from three up until the end of February.

Trent did an admirable job when McCollum was injured, but an underlying reason for the trade was that the Blazers wanted to get more experienced and that Trent was due a potentially massive payday.

After turning down an offer the previous year at around $52 million over four years, Trent supposedly was going to have offers of around $80 million over four years. The Blazers didn’t necessarily want to pay that much for someone who could shoot and defend a bit but didn’t have much of a driving game.

The Blazers pulled the trigger on a deal for Norman Powell, a previous NBA champion with significant playoff experience and a more versatile offensive game. Powell was due a payday in the next season as well, but it was likely more certain. Rodney Hood was sent out in the deal too after it was obvious he was a shell of his previous self.

Powell was 27, but there was likely an agreement between Powell, his agent, and the Blazers front office.

When the trade was first made, the Blazers won four of five games, before going into a massive tailspin, losing 9 of 11 games. But, when they got their act together down the stretch, they put together a memorable run to finish as the sixth seed. They won 10 of their final 12 games and had the NBA’s best net rating and one of the league’s best defenses in this stretch too.

Though Powell doesn’t seem like the ideal three-man, as he is just six-three, his near seven-foot-wingspan means he can match up with some forwards, and he has strong slashing ability and the speed to attack closeouts.

The Blazers didn’t make any noise in the playoffs, going out in six games to a weaker Denver Nuggets team, Powell still averaged a career-high 17 points per game in the playoffs on 50 / 38 / 88 shooting. He showed his ability to score from inside and out and then earned himself a payday in the off-season too.

In the end, he and Trent both got around $18 million a year. Trent got three years with a player option at the back end, while Powell got five years, with no options.

Though Powell will be 33 when this deal is up, the Blazers will get five years of his prime. It’s tough to see a developing three and d wing in Trent on another team, but at 22 they decided they needed a guy of Powell’s experience and different skill set instead.

The Blazers made good use of the asset they returned in the trade in Powell, by bringing him back at $18 million a year. In the end, it was a nice piece of business. In the case of a potential McCollum trade, Powell can step straight into the two-guard position. 

Trade Grade –     B-