The Toronto Raptors’ usual starting backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet have missed a combined 29 games so far this season. But in their absence, Gary Trent Jr. and Malachi Flynn have shown the potential to be the sharpshooting back-court of the future for Toronto.
In addition to Lowry and VanVleet, other key players like Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby have been forced to miss several games lately, due to injury and rest purposes. As turbulent as the 2020-2021 season has been for the Raptors, there is still reason for optimism looking beyond this season.
Giving others a chance to shine
One of the silver linings for the starters missing games is that the role players and young guys have gotten an opportunity to expand their game in extended minutes. It’s been satisfying to watch Canadian Khem Birch fill the centre position and play alongside Chris Boucher, the two of them faced each other a lot growing up in Montreal.
But, the two youngest players on the Raptors’ roster also happen to be two of the most intriguing talents on the team. Trent and Flynn are both 22 years old and have shown signs of having very bright futures in the NBA.
Persevering through the struggles
Flynn had a tough start to the season and was even sent to play in the G-League bubble earlier this year with the Raptors 905. After an impressive showing with the Raptors 905 Flynn returned to the Raptors and then, unfortunately, he had to enter the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols forcing him to miss the next ten games.
But during the month of April, Flynn has really turned it around, averaging 13.6 points, 6.0 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 40 percent from three on over five attempts per game. He should get some consideration for the Rookie of the Month of award for the month of April.
What’s been most encouraging to see is that Raptors’ head coach Nick Nurse has been inserting Flynn in late-game clutch scenarios and he has been making the most of those opportunities.
Putting the league on notice
Meanwhile, Trent, who is the youngest player on the team, continues to get better and better with his increased opportunity with the Raptors. It was tough to see Norman Powell go, but Raptors fans are being put on notice, because Trent has shown he is a lethal scoring option on his hot nights.
In his last eight games, Trent is averaging 20.3 points per game while shooting 41.3% from three on almost eight attempts a night. He’s set his career-high in scoring twice since being traded to Toronto, with 31 against the OKC Thunder and a crazy efficient 44 point outing against the Cleveland Cavaliers on 17-19 shooting. Also, we can’t forget Trent’s clutch game-winning buzzer-beater against the Washinton Wizards.
For now, the Raptors are 10th in the East, which puts them in the play-in tournament. But with the way they are resting so many of their key players lately, it’s hard to tell if they even want to make the playoffs.
Should the Raptors scratch and claw for a playoff spot? Or should they tank for a better draft pick?
Either way, it’s probably in their best interest to preserve the health of their star veterans like Lowry and VanVleet for the rest of the season. It also gives more opportunities to the young guys on the team that could use the time to continue their development. Trent and Flynn are showing they are deserving of more minutes and maybe even the starting back-court spots in the years to come.