The Toronto Raptors were forced into making a significant trade ahead of the 2021 deadline, but it already appears to be one with a positive future impact.
Ahead of the trade deadline, the Raptors made the decision to send Norman Powell to the Portland Trail Blazers as it appeared more than likely that the one-time NBA champion would hit free agency – needing a new, hefty contract that the team did not want to pay.
Instead of losing Powell for nothing, the team acquired two pieces that could be impact players right away, with one, in particular, having a longer-term view of his role.
Rodney Hood, the 28-year-old versatile guard/forward, would be an immediate depth player for the team, playing in the team’s rotation – at least that was the plan before his injury; one of many the Raptors have suffered this season.
Having him locked up for the 2021-22 season should see the Meridian, Mississippi native get more minutes under head coach Nick Nurse, but he is realistically the ‘smaller’ piece in the trade.
The player the Raptors were clearly most interested in, based on what he could bring to the team this season as well as his potential moving forward, was Gary Trent Jr – who was sent to Toronto by Portland in the same way his father, Gary Trent Sr, was in 1998.
Trent Jr, who typically plays as a shooting guard, joined the team as an impending restricted free agent and, at just 22 years old, still has many years left ahead of him in the NBA.
After being selected in the second round (37th overall) in the 2018 Draft, Trent Jr has gone from strength to strength – from playing just 7.4 minutes per game in his 15-game rookie season, to now consistently playing over 30 minutes for both the Trail Blazers and Raptors, starting all eight games since joining the Canadian team.
Since being traded to the Raptors, Trent Jr has already had some memorable moments and is averaging 14.6 points per game as well as three rebounds (2.9 defensive) – helping the Raptors in an area they have struggled in greatly this year.
Arguably his most memorable moment has come in the 103-101 victory over the Washington Wizards, where the Columbus, Ohio native hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to snatch victory.
He has been a welcome addition to the Toronto Raptors roster, and the feeling appears to be mutual, as Trent Jr has spoken about how appreciated he has felt since joining the team, talking in the Open Gym series – something that should suggest the 22-year-old will be open to signing a new long-term contract with Toronto.
Trent Jr has had a positive impact since the trade, which has largely alleviated the disappointment in seeing Powell leave – especially after two years of exceptional growth and performances after previously being a depth player.
His growth over the next few years will be an exciting development to watch for Toronto Raptors fans, and coaches, and if he continues to put up bigger numbers, then the trade will truly be a win in a series where they have been few and far between.