Even without trading Kyle Lowry at the 2021 NBA Trade Deadline, the Toronto Raptors made one of the more impactful deals of the evening, swapping out potential 2021 free agent Norman Powell for the younger, cheaper Gary Trent Jr. and a throw-in reclamation project in Rodney Hood. The Portland Trail Blazers made this deal with their eyes on the postseason.
With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum providing plenty of scoring power, Portland is operating under the mindset of getting a potentially more effective scorer in Powell and simply outshooting the rest of the Western Conference to make up for the lack of defense on this team.
So far, the stats between Powell and Trent are almost dead even, as Powell is averaging 17.3 points per game on 44% shooting to Trent’s 16.8 per game. However, the Blazers haven’t been winning as much as the Raptors, which is starting to make the scales start to tip in favor of Toronto.
The Blazers have lost six of their last seven games and nine of their last 12, with all three of their latest losses coming in a one-possession game. The Raptors, meanwhile, are enjoying Trent putting up the highest scoring average of his career. While the Blazers suffer thanks to the third-worst defense in NBA history, Trent is helping lead a turnaround in the standings.
The Gary Trent Jr. trade is looking nice for the Toronto Raptors.
Trent has had quite the memorable run so far in Toronto. In his first few weeks, the restricted free agent almost set the NBA’s individual plus-minus record, scored a career-high 44 points, and defeated the Washington Wizards with a sick buzzer-beater. Powell has performed well, but he is sitting in the corner frequently while Lillard rocks out on offense.
Powell might not be playing his best basketball right now, but he will still likely command a contract this offseason that could pay him around $20 million per season. Considering what a dear sum that is for a third scoring option, Portland is not a lock to retain him, meaning they would’ve traded a young, controllable asset like Trent for a half-season of Powell.
Powell’s Blazers have slipped all the way down to the No. 7 seed in the conference, while the Raptors have fought back into the playoff picture thanks to Trent’s contributions. There is a universe in where Powell’s Blazers lose in the play-in tournament while Trent’s Raptors make it to the playoffs, which would cement this deal as a win for Toronto.
While it does sting to see Powell in the middle of such a rough stretch while Toronto climbs back into the standings without him, Ujiri made this deal with the expectation Powell would price himself out of a Toronto return. He found his replacement in Trent, and the results of the trade so far appear to favor the Toronto Raptors.