The Toronto Raptors were active at the trade deadline last season, and their most noteworthy move was trading impending free agent Norman Powell to the Portland Trail Blazers in a deal that brought former second-round pick Gary Trent Jr. to Canada.
While it might have stung to see a fan favorite like Powell head elsewhere, the logic behind Masai Ujiri’s deal made sense. The younger, cheaper Trent might be able to be more a benefit to Toronto than Powell on a hefty long-term contract, even though No. 33 may not be a finished product yet this year.
Powell signed a five-year, $90 million deal with Portland, and Trent signed a three-year deal for just above $51 million with Toronto. With a new contract comes heightened expectations from this fanbase, and Trent standing out as one of the underperformers from a preseason loss against the 76ers only made the anti-GTJ movement stronger.
Can we put this movement to rest for a second? Trent is younger than Malachi Flynn, a proven scorer at this level based on last year, and working on correcting his ability to create shots for himself. Maybe let him play more than one preseason game before declaring the contract an albatross?
The Gary Trent Jr. contract was a smart signing by the Toronto Raptors.
Let’s just examine Trent’s stats from January 18, when he moved into the starting lineup after an injury to CJ McCollum, and April 18, as he was hampered by injuries on a Raptors team that clearly had no intentions of competing for victories.
Trent averaged 17 points per game while making 42% of his shots and 39% of his 3-point attempts. That type of production at his age, irrespective of his circumstances, is impressive, and getting that sort of shooting potential and production for just over $17 million per year doesn’t happen very often.
He might be a streaky player, but isn’t it a bit unfair to expect him to be fully developed at this age? The Luka Doncic types that come into the NBA and are good at almost everything immediately are exceptions. We’ve seen Trent shoot, score, and be efficient in the past, so why would we expect anything less this season?
Part of the reason the Scottie Barnes selection was made was the hope that Nick Nurse and the team’s developmental system would correct his biggest flaws (shooting, in his case). If fans are assuming Nurse will work his magic with Barnes and Flynn, why couldn’t he do the same with Trent?
Yes, he will have some inefficient nights. He’s streaky right now. However, Ujiri hasn’t been shy about tempering expectations for this season. There will be growing pains, and Trent will almost assuredly experience some, but that’s no reason to get melancholy about the contract.
With a lack of shooters on the roster and the Goran Dragic trade rumors likely to swirl until the clock strikes midnight on deadline day, Trent will play a vital role in making this team a viable postseason contender. If he continues his upward ascension and growth, he’ll make the haters eat their words.