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Toronto Raptors

Do the Toronto Raptors have a better starting backcourt with Norman Powell in it?

On Monday, NBA.com's Micah Adams ranked the 22 starting backcourts playing in the Orlando bubble.

The Raptors backcourt of All-Star Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet ranked eighth on the list. Toronto is essentially starting two point guards, which makes them ranking in the top 10 pretty amazing, but it does make me wonder what Toronto's' ranking would be if they had a more traditional starting backcourt.

MORE: Free agent destinations for Fred VanVleet

No disrespect to Fred VanVleet, but he isn't a starting shooting guard.

Has he played the role well this season? Yes. Has he exceeded expectations in the absence of Danny Green? Yes, but he's a point guard and that's where he'll always be most effective.

VanVleet was thrust into the starting two-guard role because that was the best option at the time for Nick Nurse, but new information is available and there's a great option currently on the roster - Norman Powell.

It doesn't take long to glance at Powell's stats and see that this has been a career year for the 26-year-old. In 44 games this season, Powell is averaging 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from three. Simply put, he's been brilliant when he's been available - the problem is he hasn't always been.

Through the first 27 games of the season, Powell was showing signs of the light bulb switching on. He was forced into the starting lineup due to injury and thrived, but a mid-December shoulder injury of his own put a stop to his momentum for 11 games.

When he came back from the shoulder injury, Powell turned it up another notch. Over the next 11 games he averaged 17.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals while shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range, but the high was short-lived as he would be once again forced out of the lineup with a fractured ring finger on his left hand.

If you thought that was going to slow Powell down, think again.

Powell upped the ante upon his return to the lineup, averaging 23.3 points and 1.2 steals with a true shooting percentage of 65.3. He did tweak his ankle against the Jazz in the final game before the season's suspension, but he wasn't expected to miss much time.

Over the length of the season, Powell has proven that he's ready for primetime.

He's ready to accept more responsibility on both ends of the court and has put himself in prime position to be an everyday starter.

In the 23 games Powell has started this season, he's averaged 18.8 points while shooting 51.8 percent from the field. In the 21 games he's come off the bench, his average falls to 13.7 points, while shooting 47.9 percent from the field. While Powell has been better as a starter this year - he's also outplayed VanVleet in that role.

Toronto's net rating of 6.7 is better with Powell on the floor than the 5.1 with VanVleet. Is there some noise with that? Yes, but Powell has started and closed enough games this season to get a more accurate idea of his impact on the floor. Powell also ranks third among shooting guards in real plus-minus (RPM), behind only James Harden and Jrue Holiday. VanVleet comes in at 14th on the list.

Playing Powell at shooting guard gives the Raptors a more traditional look in their starting lineup. It also could potentially eliminate any mismatches they would see in the playoffs against bigger backcourts.

Had my colleague Adams ranked the Raptors' backcourt with Powell at two-guard over VanVleet, there's a chance they move up a tad. Would they have broken into the upper echelon of guards? No, but they would've likely moved past the likes of Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson who Adams ranked ahead of the Raptors' starters.

In and all this is a great problem for Nurse to have. One he hasn't really had to deal with all season because of all the injuries Toronto was plagued with.

Powell may be the better starting option right now, but let's not forget that with VanVleet as the primary starting shooting guard the Raptors went 46-18.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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