Scary Gary: Trent’s consistency holds the key for individual, team success in 2021-22

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It’s not just Gary Trent Jr.’s style that keeps Toronto Raptors fans wanting more from the young guard.

After former Raptors Norman Powell’s departure from Toronto, fans were left with uncertainty as a fresh new face came on the scene. He quickly gained the trust of the We The North faithful with both his two-way play and his unrelenting swagger, on and off the court.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows following the trade deadline. Trent struggled to maintain a consistent stat line over consecutive games, leading to a number of outings with less than stellar shooting percentages.

The 2021-22 NBA season could be the year Trent proves he’s not just flashes of greatness, but that he could be one of the leaders of the Raptors young core.

Here for the long run?

The Raptors front office and Trent agreed to a three-year, $54 million dollar contract on Aug. 2. The new deal will keep the 22 year-old in Toronto for the next two years, with a player option in 2023-24.

Trent did have the option to go elsewhere — potentially a team with a recent winning record — by signing an offer sheet due to his restricted free agency status, but he decided to stay with his new squad.

Does this mean he’s in the 6ix for the long haul? Not necessarily, but he did seem to be happy in his new home this past season. Part of that could be the result of being traded to and from the same teams — the Raptors and the Portland Trailblazers — his father, Gary Trent Sr., was in his playing days.

Stepping up

With the departure of arguably the greatest Raptor of all-time, Kyle Lowry, Toronto is seeing a void in the starting lineup at guard.

Fred VanVleet was groomed for the leadership role since he started making his way to becoming a starter, but now he’ll have to find his own right-hand man.

Malachi Flynn and even 2021 first-round draft pick Scottie Barnes have been in consideration for this spot. Trent will definitely be in the conversation as well to take over for VanVleet, who will be replacing Lowry as point guard.

Barnes is built more like a traditional forward, but as the game has evolved, more big men have been filling roles at the guard positions because of their freakish athletic talent complementing their sharpshooting abilities.

As it stands, it’s anyone’s job to earn.

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There were a number of games last season where Trent would really turn on the jets, draining basket after basket. But he wasn’t known for having repeat performances. He would often be very hot and cold in his 17 appearances for the Raptors.

On the hotter side, Trent averaged 16.2 points-per-game — the third-best on the team. He scored 31 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder and 44 against the Cleveland Cavaliers while shooting 89.5 per cent from the field.

On the colder side, he scored 15 or less points in nine of 17 games. His field goal percentage even dropped to 39.5 per cent because of several single-digit games.

If Trent can get a handle on his consistency, the starting guard job could be his for good.

Defensive improvements

Trent is known to fans as a two-way player, but since coming to Toronto, he struggled to earn the numbers he wanted on the back-end.

His opponents were limited to 37.4 per cent from three-point range and 52.1 per cent from two. If he wants to be known as an effective two-way player on the team, he’ll have to drop that number this season.

If we can highlight some things he does well but can do better, deflections and recovering loose balls would be on the list. He averaged 2.1 deflections per game and his 0.8 defensive loose balls recovered per game were third in the league.

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