Gary Trent Jr. is probably never going to be a primary offensive weapon for the Toronto Raptors. He doesn’t have the athletic gifts to attack the rim the way some others do nor the finishing ability of his predecessor Norman Powell. But what he does have is a lethal 3-point shot and a willingness to always be ready, and together that can be a very dangerous weapon.
After two lackluster shooting performances to start Trent’s Raptors tenure, he’s quickly shown that kind of shooting burst he became known for in Portland. He’s shooting 12-for-20 from behind the arc over the past two games and his catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage is up to 42.9% this season, the fourth-best in the league on his volume, per NBA Stats.
But that’s only half of what makes Trent so valuable. The other component of his game is the gravity he creates. We’ve looked at gravity in the past, specifically as it pertains to Aron Baynes’ lack thereof. Essentially, gravity or Gravity, a statistic created by Dr. Andrew Patton Ph.D., measures how much a player distorts an opposing defence by just being on the court in a certain area. With Baynes, as you may remember, his 23.3% 3-point shooting this season has allowed opposing defences to sag off of him and defend the paint with little to no regard for his 3-point shooting. Essentially, he has no gravitational pull on his defender. With Trent, however, the story is quite different.
Where those dips are the lowest, the red areas on the chart, Trent is pulling his defender toward him.
Let’s take a look at how that works in reality.
In this play, Pascal Siakam has Kevon Looney beat pretty much right away. Toronto’s star forward is just too quick for the Warriors’ slowfooted centre and once Siakam puts his head down to get to the rim he’s able to quickly get ahead of Looney for the bucket. If you watch closely, however, you’ll notice what Eric Paschall does in this play. He’s essentially in the perfect position to stop Siakam but because he’s defending Trent, he’s forced to leave the paint and retreat to the 3-point line to respect Trent’s 3-point shooting.
Not only does Trent create that space for Siakam, but he moves slightly up the 3-point arc to create even more space for Siakam’s penetration.
Earlier in the game, he had a very similar play.
In this one, Trent’s aggressive cut and his readiness to receive a kick-out pass from Siakam forces Kelly Oubre into no man’s land. Oubre is trying to help Juan Toscano-Anderson defend Siakam, but with Trent camping out behind the 3-point line and ready for the pass, Oubre is left caught in the middle.
Without even touching the ball, Trent’s 3-point shooting is helping to create points for the Raptors just by being aggressive and attentive to what’s going on.
Then there’s his actual shooting which we touched on earlier. One of the things that makes Trent such a great shooter and the reason defences have to respect his shot is his readiness to let it fly the second the ball comes his way.
As you may have noticed when Siakam was scoring in the previous videos, Trent usually has his hands out and his legs ready to catch-and-shoot if and when the pass comes his way. When it does, he can quickly let it fly with ease.
“It looks like the expectations of him to come out and hunt those [shots],” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Trent after Friday night’s victory over the Golden State Warriors. “When he went up, you’re expecting them to go. It’s almost like a shock when it doesn’t go in.”
Nurse sounded excited about the prospect of working with Trent in the future. He said he sees a lot of potential in the 22-year-old and Trent’s defence should be coming along eventually.
“He’s just got to learn a little bit more of the way we want to play it [defensively],” Nurse said. “But he’s got great on-ball toughness and feet, and that’s the hardest part. We can teach him and get him some reps at all the other help issues and other schemes that we’re doing.”
If Trent can get Toronto’s defensive scheme mastered, even if he’s never an above-average defensive player, his shooting and the space he creates offensively will be extremely valuable for the Raptors core going forward.