Review and preview: Josh Powell
Strengths: Can hit a jumper out to 18 feet or so. Is a willing and hard-working rebounder and defender. Has the respect of the team, beyond anybody save for Bryant and Fisher. Leader of the second unit in the way those guys are of the team as a whole. Always keeps himself prepared to play mentally and physically despite spotty usage.
Weaknesses: Lack of athleticism makes him a poor finisher and unable to handle quicker players he has to guard. Shot is more for show than an actual weapon. Not really a rotation-worthy NBA talent.
Last year: In 9.2 minutes over 63 games, he put up 2.7 points and 1.8 boards and had an off-year shooting (.407 TS%) shooting, although he did hit 7/16 from behind the arc for some reason. The shooting woes drove his PER down to a career worst and below replacement level 6.7. Played only 40 minutes in 13 playoff appearances, almost all garbage time, chipping in 9 points and 6 boards total.
Next year: Is an unrestricted free agent who may draw some token interest as teams look to fill out their rosters later on. A possibility for the Lakers to bring back at the minimum, but if he gets a better offer would likely take it. The poor shooting looks like a fluke, he should return to his career norm 10-11 PER level of play.
You can’t talk about Powell without using the word “respect”. The players respect him as a teammate and an all out practice player, the coaches respect him for his approach, readiness and professionalism (again, the anti-Farmar), and the fans respect him because it’s easy to see how much the team respects him. He is the only guy who really has the ear of Kobe and Fish, and may be the most popular guy in the locker room.
As a 4th-5th big to sop up some minutes for foul trouble and minor injuries, you can do a lot worse. When he has to be extended due to a longer-term injury situation, as he has with Bynum missing, he is not really up to the task, leaving the others playing more minutes than you would like. Ideally, he would be the 5th big with the team bringing in a vet like Kurt Thomas to be the 4th, but his popularity in the organization and doubt that there will be much of a market for his services combine to give him a decent shot at returning. And I don’t think anybody involved would be upset at that.