Norman Powell finding scoring niche near the rim

As a sophomore, Norman Powell mulled a transfer before then-head coach Ben Howland was fired. Looking back, can you blame him?

The 6-foot-4 guard ranked seventh among UCLA players in offensive rating in 2012-13, and 62nd in the conference. He last touched the ball on 14.5 percent of the team’s possessions, behind even little-used big man Tony Parker.

This year, Powell is the 12th-most efficient offensive player in the conference, four spots behind leading Bruin scorer Jordan Adams. The main difference has been taking more shots closer to the basket, but just how much his shot preference has changed is astounding.

Over three seasons, here are his percentage of shots taken at the rim, his field goal percentage on those shots, and how many of those shots are assisted:

% shots at rimFG% at rim % assisted at rim
2013-1457.371.647.9
2012-1331.969.055.0
2011-1224.051.463.2
Statistics from hoop-math.com

Why the dramatic uptick? Powell said this week it’s mostly schematic. Before Steve Alford arrived at UCLA, the playbook wasn’t designed to maximize his chances down the lane. Note that fewer of his shots deep in the paint have been assisted; he’s being trusted more to create his own opportunities.

“Driving the ball has always been my strength,” he said. “Even playing in high school, that’s what I was known for — using my athletic ability to get to the rim, get to the free-throw line.

“Definitely, this year, I feel like that’s being put to use more. … The offense is geared towards that.”

Remarkably, his efficiency has shot up despite a heavier workload and growing defensive attention. Though he’s no better than the No. 3 scoring option on his own team, he ranks top 10 in the conference in both shot attempts at the rim (102) as well as makes (73).

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  • benzo

    This is not surprising at all. He’s an athlete and Howland has always suppressed athleticism on the offensive side of the ball. This year he’s used his athleticism to get easy shots at the rim.

  • Oz

    Good piece, Jack.

  • CaliGrown

    His game reminds me of Shannon Brown, he may have a chance at the next level with his improvement. Will be a 4 year athlete at UCLA can’t beat it. Next year will be his best yet’