The Toronto Raptors were taking a big risk when they acquired Gary Trent Jr. from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Norman Powell, as the Duke alum was regarded as one of the league’s worst defenders. That’s not ideal for a team that is committed to this unique style of defense.
Trent’s turnaround last year after signing a three-year contract was one of the most impressive single-season turnarounds in modern NBA history, as his steals and general effectiveness shot through the roof. This year hasn’t been as successful.
Trent’s deflections per game have shrunk from 3.4 per game last year, one of the league’s best marks, to just 2.4 per game this year. While he hasn’t always been 100% healthy, that is not an acceptable excuse for Nurse, who is clearly irritated with the tape Trent has put up on that end.
Nurse said that Trent was “disappointing” on that end this season, citing the fact that he isn’t showing as much aggression. While Nurse said that Trent fits the scheme when he is causing deflections, he said that he does not fit when he’s just sitting back and being very passive.
Toronto Raptors: Nick Nurse criticized Gary Trent Jr.
Trent is averaging a solid 16.6 points per game this year, but every one of his primary box score stats is down when compared to last season. Making just 41% of his shots and going cold from 3-point range is certainly not going to help him endear himself to this fanbase this year.
The Raptors have to pay some of their big names, which has reignited all of the Trent trade rumors that were ignored by Masai Ujiri last year. The Raptors need shooting, but investing nine figures in Trent if he can’t play defense might not be something that this team is interested in.
Nurse did make some excuses for his starting guard, as he mentioned the fact that he has been riddled with injuries in the last few weeks and is no stranger to cold streaks. This is akin to putting some smelling salts under his nose and trying to snap him out of whatever funk he is in.
Trent is going to eventually catch fire and get his shots up, but it’s clear that he is the defensive weak link in the starting lineup. Even if he’s never going to be an All-Defensive Team player like O.G. Anunoby will be, he can’t go out there and be a negative asset.