Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors might’ve been led to a victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, their third consecutive win, by a dominant Chris Boucher, but Gary Trent Jr. did his part in his return from a sore ankle, as he dropped 23 points, grabbed five rebounds, and amassed five steals.
Trent, who has been the starter at shooting guard ever since Norman Powell was sent to the Portland Trail Blazers, is looking like a much better player than he was in Portland. Not only is the restricted free agent shooting the ball better, which is imperative for someone with his offensive style, but he appears more comfortable on the defensive end of the floor.
It’s become clear that Terry Stotts was not using him right in Portland, as Trent was often playing out on the wing in order to accommodate the presence of Damian Lillard at point guard and CJ McCollum at shooting guard. Nurse has moved him over to the 2-guard spot, and the results have been electrifying.
Since making the move to shooting guard with Toronto, Trent has been lighting it up. Including last night’s contest, Trent has averaged 20.6 points per game on 45% shooting and 42% from the 3-point line since a March 31 loss against Oklahoma City.
The Raptors moving Gary Trent Jr. to shooting guard has worked wonders.
Per Cleaning the Glass (subscription required), Trent was averaging the most points per possession of any small forward in the game, but the Blazers allowed 1.25 points per possession with him on the floor. With Toronto, that number has dropped to 1.10 points per possession, good for the 64th percentile across the league.
The effective field goal percentage when Trent is on the floor has dropped nine points, leaving him at the impressive 72nd percentile mark. Trent hasn’t sacrificed offensive potency, however, as his 1.20 points per possession ranks in the 91st percentile among shooting guards. Trent was a defensive liability in Portland, but he’s become a two-way star in Toronto.
Trent’s natural ball-handling ability, skill with regards to creating off of the dribble, and effectiveness finishing at the rim were wasted in a Blazers offense that essentially turned him into a spot-up shooter.
With the Raptors, Nurse is letting him use his full bag of tricks, and the Raptors fanbase has to be pleased with the results. With a buzzer-beater, career-high, and, almost, a plus-minus record, Trent has had his fair share of positive moments this season.
Trent has proven to be a much better defender and an equally good offensive player, especially considering that he is getting increased attention from opposing teams on defense.
While trying to get him, Kyle Lowry, and Fred VanVleet minutes at the same time will be an exercise in frustration, Trent has proven to be a much better shooting guard than true wing, and Nurse should treat him as such.