Toronto Raptors: 3 sets of expectations for 3 young players in 2021

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 15: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 15: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) /
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Gary Trent, Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors
TAMPA, FLORIDA – APRIL 05: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

A new era of Toronto Raptors basketball begins with a new generation of potential stars competing for roster spots and minutes. The Raptors’ latest roster edition will begin training camp ahead of the coming season in less than a week on September 28. The most obvious subtraction from the team will be the lack of Kyle Lowry.

While there is a significant link to the success of 2019’s championship season, the focus after missing the playoffs in 2021 is on both player and team development. The Raptors are undoubtedly in retooling mode.

At least seven new players will be rounding out the roster that completed last season with a 27-45 record. Three drafted players and a slew of non-guaranteed signings solidify the team’s new direction.

It’s a direction that focuses on defense with a decided slant toward small ball. However, the roster is replete with players who promise athleticism and many skills, keeping the interest in the team’s progress high.

If the Raptors are to have an outside shot at a playoff spot, there are three key young players who must reach or exceed expectations, or 2022 will be another season in which the Raptors fanbase will only have the draft to get excited about.

3 expectations for 3 young Toronto Raptors

3. Gary Trent Jr. is the new Norman Powell for better or worse.

Trent became a Raptor at the trade deadline in 2021, with Powell heading to the Portland Trail Blazers in return. He showed several glimpses of greatness and success that suggest his development may be ahead of Powell’s at this stage of his career.

In the deal with Portland, the Raptors seemed to indicate that they weren’t ready to pay Powell the hefty long-term deal he seeks.

However, after games like his career-high 44 point effortless 17-19 from the field shooting vs. the Cavaliers in a 135-115 Raptors win, Trent raised eyebrows and parlayed his short time with Toronto into a new three-year, $54 million dollar deal. Powell got five years and $90 from Portland.

Money aside, Trent needs to fulfill the Powell role, and he’ll get his chance to knock down as many shots as possible this season.

The Toronto Raptors need a solid season out of Gary Trent Jr.

In the end, both players got $18 million per year. However, at age 22, Trent has the potential to be as good as Powell if he hits all of the proper developmental milestones.

It took a hard worker in Powell rededicating himself to the game and seeking out the advice of a legend of the game in Kobe Bryant to make himself relevant to the Raptors success again before his trade.

Replacing Powell is not just a nominal thing, as Trent will have his work cut out for him. If he averages something similar to the per-game rates he amassed during his Raptors debut, he may succeed in that goal.