Raptors win against Heat shows how Gary Trent Jr. has evolved

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 29: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 29: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

Gary Trent Jr. and the Toronto Raptors weren’t given much of a chance against the Miami Heat. Even with Kyle Lowry not suiting up and the return of Fred VanVleet, Miami has so much depth that it looked like an overwhelming challenge. Considering how hot he started in this game, Trent was unbowed.

Trent put up 32 points in each of his prior two games, making over half of his 3-point attempts in the process. With VanVleet sidelined due to injury, Trent lived up to his $51 million contract and produced with his team missing some big names.

Trent finished the night with 33 points on 13-25 shooting and 5-15 from 3-point range in a triple-overtime barnburner. Trent and the rest of the Raptors were sucking wind in the final periods, but Toronto was able to pull it out due to their clutch shot-making late in the game.

Trent was the catalyst behind Toronto’s herculean effort in this game, as his sweet shooting has given this offense a new dimension that opponents need to respect. Three of his four highest-scoring games in the NBA have come in his most recent three-game stretch.

The Toronto Raptors have to like what Gary Trent Jr. is doing.

Trent is not just sniping from 3-point range, as he is making plays as a ball-handler and primary offensive generator. Trent’s handles and mid-range game have been superb this season, and they’re starting to show with his recent uptick in production over the last few weeks.

Trent’s defense, most notably his ability to cause turnovers with his active hands, has been on display all season long. With five steals in this game, including a few pocket picks of Bam Adebayo, Gary showed that his ability to impact the game in this fashion is not going away as the season progresses.

Take a moment to consider how raw Trent was in Portland and the confusing player evaluation that he was when he arrived in Toronto. Would he develop a consistent offensive game outside of his shooting? Would his defense be this bad for the rest of his career?

This last stretch has shown that Trent is more than just an ancillary role-player. He’s capable of being the tertiary scorer behind VanVleet and Pascal Siakam on most nights. Not bad for a guy who didn’t even start on opening night due to Goran Dragic.

The Raptors didn’t commit to Trent with the expectation he’d be a role player that hits jumpers every now and again. This team believed in his potential as a long-term cornerstone, and it appears to be paying off.

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