Our player preview series for the 2024 Clippers season continues with Norman Powell, the Clippers’ veteran 6th man and reserve shooting guard.
Weight: 215 pounds
Position: Shooting Guard
Years in NBA: 8
Key Stats: 17.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.7 turnovers in 26.1 minutes per game across 60 games played (8 starts) on 47.9/39.7/81.2 shooting splits with 61.2% TS in regular season
Contract Status: Three years left on a 5 year, $90M extension, $18M this season
Norman Powell might have the clearest role on the 2024 Clippers outside of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, especially with no Eric Gordon or Luke Kennard on the roster this season. He is going to be the Clippers’ 6th man, playing 25 to 30+ minutes per game in most contests, and is a designated scorer and shooter with limited other responsibilities. While availability was a factor last year, with Powell missing 22 games, he otherwise turned in exactly what was expected of him after a slow start. Really, if he can more or less duplicate his 2023 season, but with more games played (ideally 70+, though Norm has always been injury-prone), he will be giving the Clippers what they need of him.
For the Clippers, Norm Powell’s best attribute is his downhill scoring ability. He was third on the 2023 Clippers with an average of 4.8 free throw attempts per game, and his free throw rate was the highest of any rotation perimeter player by a wide margin. He’s extremely quick slashing to the rim and has the strength to power through defenders to earn free throws, which were desperately needed by the Clippers, who are a jump shot heavy team. Additionally, 24.1% of Norm’s shots came at the rim, third-highest among perimeter players behind Russell Westbrook and Terance Mann, and he’s a good finisher once he gets there. The Clippers lack of juice has been an issue on offense in the last few years, and Norm is a good remedy for that.
Norm is an excellent three-point shooter, making 39.7% of his shots from deep last year on 4.8 attempts per game, which isn’t super high volume, but is not low either. For his career he’s a 38.6% shooter from deep, but that goes much higher when removing his first three seasons, when he was a poor shooter on low volume. Most of Norm’s threes (87.7%) are assisted, meaning off the catch or move, but he can take them off the dribble when defenders sag off him. Most importantly, he has enough of a sample size to have the reputation as a good shooter, and is thus guarded closely at long range, creating spacing. He doesn’t move off-ball like Luke Kennard did, but he’s still a useful floor spacer and off-ball shooter.
Finally, while Norm is not an on-ball menace, he’s usually decent when guarding opposing ball-handlers, especially if they’re relatively in his size range (he can struggle against smaller, quicker guards). He has the stoutness and wingspan to at least contest shots and body up larger wings, making him capable of switching positions defensively, a boon in the Clippers’ switch-heavy schemes.
By far Norm’s biggest weakness is his lack of playmaking. Despite his total scoring package, he’s not an adept creator for others, averaging just 1.8 assists, or tied for 9th on the team among rotation players despite ranking 3rd in scoring and 5th in usage. While not super turnover prone, his assist to turnover ratio barely clears 1, which is very much not ideal. Norm is a head-down kind of player, who while not a ball hog, simply does not look to create for teammates frequently and hasn’t flashed much in actual passing acumen when he does. Unlike Clippers’ 6th man comparison Lou Williams, Norm is not remotely capable of running an offense – he’s a play finisher, not a starter. That makes his utility on offense limited even with his scoring on- and off-ball.
Norm is also an anemic rebounder, grabbing just 2.9 boards in his more than 26 minutes per game. That translated to 5.5 rebounds per 100 possessions, the fourth lowest on the team (ahead of Amir, Reggie, and Eric Gordon). Similarly, his total rebound percentage of 6.4% was fourth lowest as well, with those same three behind him. Rebounding isn’t a necessity for a shooting guard, but it’s always a helpful skill, and the Clippers’ non-big men being mostly awful rebounders last year was a big reason their small-ball units didn’t work. Russell Westbrook is a big plus in that regard, and more of Terance Mann, Paul George, and Kawhi should help too. Hopefully Norm is one of the only bad rebounders this year and his weakness can be papered over.
Despite what I said above about his on-ball defense, in actuality, despite his reputation, Norm is a well below-average defensive player. This is because he’s very poor off-ball and in help, regularly getting confused on assignments and not making it well through screens. The Clippers’ defense was worse than expected last year, and was downright bad in the second half of the season, and Norm was a reason why. He’s not as obviously bad as Trae Young on the perimeter or say Moses Brown as a rim protector, but all advanced metrics paint him as a real negative on that end.
Unless Norman Powell is moved in a Harden deal (unlikely), he is one of the more likely Clippers to play on the team the entirety of the 2024 season. His contract is not valued around the league, and while Norm clearly has his uses, he’s also a bench player at this point in his career. He also provides something the Clippers need – downhill juice and off-ball three-point shooting – and is good friends with the Clippers’ two best players. If all goes well, Norm will play a key role for the Clippers as a bench scorer who can up his usage when one of Russ, PG, or Kawhi is out and contribute to a deep playoff run.