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One of the biggest areas of concern for the Toronto Raptors as of late has been their lack of production off the bench. During their last two losses, Toronto was outscored in points off the bench 43-11 against the New York Knicks and 38-24 against the Brooklyn Nets.
The Raptors rank 17th in the league in bench scoring, and to make matters worse they will be without Chris Boucher, their most consistent sixth man option this season, for an indefinite period of time.
So where can Toronto find a much needed spark off the bench?
Well, Gary Trent Jr. is the obvious answer, but when Trent isn’t inserted in the starting lineup, he has struggled mightily. In his last two games coming off the bench, Trent scored a total of nine points while shooting a combined 4-17 from the floor. His last outing against the Knicks was especially rough.
One could argue that Trent deserves to be in the starting lineup. After all he did hit a game winning shot and scored a career-high 44 points as a starter with the Raptors.
But when the Raptors are fully healthy, it’s hard to justify that Trent should start over Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam. All three of those guys are the core the Raptors are building around for the years to come.
The Raptors could go back to a small ball lineup, but Toronto has found some success returning to a traditional starting lineup with the new addition of Khem Birch. Birch has great chemistry right now with Kyle Lowry and the Raptors have gone 5-2 with Birch in the starting lineup.
Trent’s budding potential has been a bright spot in what’s been a tough season for the Raptors. As the youngest player on the roster, Trent shows reason for hope beyond this season.
If Kyle Lowry does decide to move on from the Raptors in free agency this summer, that would open up a permanent spot in the starting lineup for Trent to continue to flourish and reach his full potential.
But for the time being, Trent will have to learn how to be productive in a bench role for Toronto. The Raptors’ playoff hopes continue to look bleak, but if they want any shot at making the play-in, they are going to have to find a spark off the bench.
Someone has to fill the hole Boucher’s injury has left, and there’s no reason why Trent shouldn’t be able to find at least some of his scoring rhythm as the Raptors’ new sixth man.