Photo Credit: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images
When long-time Raptor and fan-favourite Norman Powell was traded to the Portland Trailblazers at the trade deadline, many fans in Toronto wondered if Norm’s scoring ability and energy could be replaced within the squad.
While Toronto suffered a series of losses to close out the season and clearly missed Powell’s presence on the floor, there was reason to be optimistic with the arrival of Gary Trent Jr.
GTJ is not the first Gary Trent to play for the Raptors, as his dad featured for the team in 1998. Oddly enough, their stories are almost identical; Trent Sr. was traded to Toronto from Portland 41 games into the season, just like his son. While Trent Sr. only played in the North for one season, there’s hope that the 22-year-old Trent Jr. will be a Raptor for a long time.
In just over a month with the Raptors, Trent impressed fans and management alike with strong two-way play, positive energy, and swagger.
At first glance, Trent’s offensive stats are good and indicate that he should be able to fill the void left by Powell’s departure. In 17 appearances for Toronto following his arrival, he averaged 16.2 points-per-game, the third-best figure on the team. He had a few offensive outbursts, going for 31 points against the Thunder and exploding for 44 against Cleveland in April, in which he shot a ridiculous 89.5 percent from the field.
But for every efficient and healthy scoring performance he had, there were often a handful of inefficient nights to follow. Plenty of games shooting in the low 20s brought his field-goal percentage to an unimpressive 39.5 percent in his time with Toronto, down from a slightly better figure of 41.4 percent in his 41 games with Portland.
Trent Jr.’s offensive game comes mostly from beyond the arc. He averaged 7.3 three-point attempts per game with Toronto, converting 35.5 percent of them. He was slightly more efficient in catch-and-shoot opportunities (35 percent) than pull-up threes (34.9 percent), yet he was more inclined to pull up from beyond the arc. Trent took 108 of his 124 three-pointers from above the break, from where he averaged 35.6 percent efficiency. He was most efficient from the right corner, although four makes from eight attempts might be too small a sample size to consider too seriously.
A big reason for Trent’s relatively low field-goal percentage is his heavy reliance on jump shots. Since his arrival in Toronto, only 23 percent of his field-goal attempts came within 10 feet of the basket. He was most efficient shooting in the restricted area, converting 20-of-36 attempts, 17 of which were successful layups. 52.9 percent of his layups were unassisted, proving that Trent can take the ball to the paint off the dribble and convert.
While Gary Trent Jr. might be destined for a 3-and-D role, taking the ball to the hoop and settling less on outside jumpers might be the key to becoming a more efficient and consistent scorer.
Trent had been labeled as a promising perimeter defender upon his arrival from Portland, but his performances on the defensive end in his 17 games under Nick Nurse created some worry about the fit. Since his arrival on March 25, the 22-year-old had a 115.7 defensive rating, in the realm with the likes of Ricky Rubio, D’Angelo Russell and Kyrie Irving – none of which are known for their defensive prowess.
He limits opponents to 37.4 percent from three and 52.1 percent from within the arc, which is not bad but certainly nothing to write home about. He struggles to defend closer to the basket, but that’s to be expected for a 6-foot-5 lanky guard. He’s averaged 2.1 deflections per game, behind Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby on the Raptors, thanks to his 6-foot-9 wingspan. Since March 25, Trent is third in the NBA in defensive loose balls recovered per game with 0.8, revealing an impressive hustle stat line.
While the advanced stats don’t yet support the narrative that Trent is a great perimeter defender, the eye test and hustle stats show that the effort level on the defensive end will always be there. With some fine tuning under one of the best coaching staffs in the league, Trent has the potential to become a defensive leader for the Raptors.
If there is anything indisputable about Gary Trent Jr., it’s his swagger and attitude. As soon as he was announced as the newest member of the Toronto Raptors, the former Duke Blue Devil embraced his new home city and its culture, albeit from afar.
Despite him and the rest of the squad playing out the season in Tampa, he always took time to show love to the North.
Trent sat out for a few games down the stretch as the Raptors tanked- I mean, uh, rested a couple of their key players and gave minutes to their youngsters. Even when he wasn’t on the floor, GTJ got some attention for his clean and original courtside outfits.
Raptors fans love the excitement, energy and personality that Trent brings to a team that already boasts so much of it.
Gary Trent Jr.’s Raptors career got off to a hot start, and made way for a lot of hope after the franchise lost a key piece in Norman Powell. While there are reasons to be excited about what Trent can bring to this Toronto squad, fans must be cautious and patient in their expectations of the Columbus native.
While he can impress with offensive outbursts and spectacular shooting, his game lacks consistency and is often inefficient. He must try to diversify his offensive game if he wants to become more reliable on a team that’ll look to contend in the East next season.
Defensively, he’ll have to get used to the coaching style and his teammates in Toronto, in a system that has been around for a couple seasons already with players who know it well. He has the tools to become a top-tier defender, but he’ll have to improve his IQ and situational awareness to match his solid physical attributes.
This off-season will be one to keep an eye for the Raptors, as the team recovers from an odd and disapointing season away from home. With Trent becoming a restricted free-agent, it’ll be interesting to see what his contract will look like, and what management can do to get this team back amongst the top in the NBA.