LA Clippers in review: Norman Powell eyes his second NBA championship

Norman Powell, LA Clippers - Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Norman Powell, LA Clippers - Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

‘Understand the Grind’ means more than one thing for LA Clippers’ guard Norman Powell.

It is the name of his clothing brand; it also is the name of his youth-focused foundation. To him, it’s the mantra he embraces, with words and action, relentlessly. Even in the off-season, the UCLA product sternly replied to birthday wishes with two sentences, the latter of which reads, “The Grind Continues.”

And it shows on the court.

Powell was one of two late sparks for the Clippers in their short-lived 2023 playoff run. With Clippers megastar Kawhi Leonard sidelined for game three against the Phoenix Suns, the ever-so-serious offensive weapon tallied 42 points, knocking down 15 of his 23 shots from the field.

In a win-or-go-home game five against the Suns, the second-year Clipper, once again, came out firing on all cylinders: he finished the game with 27 points on efficient shooting.

While such prolific scoring nights from Powell might have surprised some NBA fans, it shouldn’t be anything new to Clippers fans.

Always donning a serious, near-somber look, Powell is one of the league’s best yet underappreciated examples of a three-level scorer.

Behind the arc, Powell is an efficient sharpshooter that can create off the dribble. Even when a defender is rapidly closing out or tightly staying on him, the shot-creator doesn’t hesitate to use his dribble to launch the ball from deep — on close to five attempts per game, he sunk nearly 40 percent of his threes.

From the mid-range, Powell’s smooth, one-motion jumper allows him to elevate high over defenders for easy two-point buckets. More noticeably, the shifty scorer loves to utilize his soft touch around the rim for his signature sky-scraping floaters.

Though not the biggest of wing players, the 30-year-old can find ways to punish defenders at the basket. He valiantly elevates over jumping defenders for exhilarating dunks or finds ways to place the ball perfectly into the rim using the backboard. He consistently found ways to score at the rim, capitalizing on 68.5 percent of those looks this last season.

Norman Powell carries the torch of dominant bench players in Clippers history.

In his second year with the LA Clippers, Norman Powell finished the season averaging 17 points on 47.9 percent shooting from the field.

And while his fearless attacking of the rim and lights out shooting verge on the line of showy and flashy, his persona is quite the opposite.

The Clippers’ off-the-bench weapon is drama-free: he suits up, plays 30 minutes of basketball and exits. He doesn’t ‘poke bears’ the way Dillon Brooks does, he doesn’t babble on a podcast nor does he go around flashing guns on Instagram. He’s here to hoop. And he’s quite good at it.

Under the assumption that the Clippers are able to retain Russell Westbrook and their two superstars return healthy, Powell will be the rightful heir to the long-lasting legacy of Clippers’ sixth-men.

In a league swarmed by teams flaunting their distinugished duos and talent-gloating trios, Powell could be the true difference maker. There isn’t quite a team like the Clippers that house two (three, if Westbrook returns) generational talents, while also boasting the luxury of a lethal scorer off the bench, after all.