NBA free agency: Blazers’ Norman Powell to decline player option and become restricted free agent, per report

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Portland Trail Blazers guard Norman Powell plans to test the free agency market over the offseason. Powell will decline his $11.6 million player option for the 2021-22 season in favor of restricted free agency, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. As a restricted free agent, the Blazers will have an opportunity to match any outside offers Powell receives, and keeping him in Portland will be a priority for the Blazers, per Haynes. 

The Blazers traded Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood to acquire Powell, 28, from the Toronto Raptors in March, and Powell went on to play — and start —  27 regular-season games for Portland. During those games, he averaged 17 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and and 1.3 steals in 34.4 minutes of action per performance. He also started in all six of Portland’s playoff games. 

As a wing player capable of playing some solid perimeter defense and also spacing the floor with his shot on the other end, Powell is sure to have several suitors over the offseason. However, the Blazers didn’t trade Trent and Hood just for a rental. “We made the Norman Powell trade hoping that he’d be a long-term part of our future,” Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey stated last month.   

Virtually every contending team could use a player of Powell’s ilk, so the Blazers will likely have no shortage of competition for his services. As such, contract offers for Powell could get pricey, but the Blazers hold his Bird rights, so they could surpass the luxury tax threshold to bring him back. 

The Blazers are in a tough spot given the uncertainty surrounding Damian Lillard’s future with the franchise, but retaining Powell seems like a no-brainer. He’s a piece who can help contribute to winning in the present, which is obviously important to Lillard. Plus, he’ll have no shortage of trade value on a new contract if the Blazers ultimately move on from Lillard and undertake a rebuild. Like Olshey said, the Blazers didn’t trade two productive players in Trent and Hood just to get Powell for half of a season, so it seems likely that Portland will bring him back. 

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