How important is Gary Trent Jr. to the Raptors' long-term success?

Amit Mann and Asad Alvi discuss what Gary Trent Jr. offers to the Toronto Raptors and what his future is with the team. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: Your thoughts on Gary Trent, Jr. and his fit with whatever this team's going to be going forward?

ASAD ALVI: Yeah, Gary is an awesome player. I think we all know that. When he's hot, he's amazing. When he's hitting catch-and-shoot 3's, it's like an instant fit on the team. The question it really comes down to is, hey, who are the main guys on this Raptors roster moving forward? And what level of usage players do you want beside him?

So we all know Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, Precious Achua, those are probably the three locks, true locks that are going to be on this team next year and the year after.

AMIT MANN: It's got to be, yes.

ASAD ALVI: So around those guys, you want to have shooting, yes. But at the same time, Pascal Siakam, high-usage player, Scottie Barnes, high-usage player. And then if you have one of OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet beside them, you know that OG Anunoby is looking for a new deal coming up in 18 months. He wants a little bit more usage.

And those are players that have higher ceilings in terms of their skill sets and their growth. And it's like, around them, would you want more role player-level shooting or a Gary Trent, which is superstar-- not superstar, sorry, but more elite-level shot making, but he needs to have the ball in his hands a little bit more?

And I think one of the big keys is, in the NBA, the shooting guard position and the center position are two-- they're similar positions in the sense that, to demand big money, you have to be elite level to demand really big usage and big money at those positions. Otherwise, their roles on team builds across the league are very much just high efficiency role players.

Gary Trent, Jr., one of the biggest kind of push-and-pulls this season has been like, hey, he can go off for 30. But is that-- do you want to be-- have-- run an offense where that much usage is going to Gary Trent, Jr., who's very good at jump shooting at the top of the key, can create a jump shot for himself, and hit some hard shots, but not really playmaking for anybody else, isn't really creating a lot of rim pressure?

So that's where I think the question comes for the Raptors is, how much money do you really want to put towards the shooting guard position, which may-- around Pascal Siakam, around Scottie Barnes, may be more of a high-efficiency role player position rather than one that requires more touches?

AMIT MANN: Yeah, it's a tricky one because you're also trying to project what Gary's going to be in a couple of years. Only 24 years old, and for him, I would think that his next contract will probably be something of a three-year contract because when he gets to 27-28, now he's going to be-- hopefully, at least he's hoping that he's going to be ready for another big contract.

And so if you think about this next little runway for the Raptors, how does Gary Trent, Jr. fit? I mean past 15 games, it's been much better. He was a little bit injured for a little while. But 22 points, 45% from the field, 40% from 3, almost 5 free throws, not bad. He's also had 2 steals. So there's an instant fit there just from being able to provide some consistency.

Yes, there's ups and downs. We saw the layup that he missed last game that I still keep on thinking about that. But I mean, at the same time, when it comes to rim pressure, he is 10% to 12% better on-- in the nonrestricted area and also restricted area attempts this season. So he is trying to evolve in that area because he knows he needs to. I like that he looks a little bit more athletic when he's in the paint now.

He's got this like running back pedal step that he's doing that he wasn't really having last season. And effectively, that is helping him be a better finisher around the rim. But there's still room for growth.

In terms of playmaking, I mean, I know it's a tricky one. The Raptors are finally running some more pick-and-roll. That's great. That's great for everyone. And so with his shooting gravity, with his ability to at least put some pressure on the rim, there are some natural ways you can just find a roller. And that happened a couple of times last game with Precious, which is good. But maybe you don't need him to be that kind of playmaker when you have Scottie Barnes, who wants to play point guard, and you have Pascal Siakam who's the do-it-all kind of person.

Do you need him? Or do you just need him to be a play finisher? Because Lord knows they need that. And also, tough shot-making ability is a skill as well.

ASAD ALVI: Yeah. And I think, again, that's the question. Gary Trent, Jr. as a play finisher on this team, great fit.


ASAD ALVI: But the fact of the matter is, as a player, he's probably a little bit more than that. But how much more of that can he be? And is that what the Raptors need? Again, moving forward, Scottie Barnes is going to become a better player. Precious Achua is going to become a better player. OG Anunoby, if he's part of the future, which it seems very much is-- the Raptors have a lot invested in OG Anunoby--

AMIT MANN: Hopefully, hopefully, year.

ASAD ALVI: --in the last five years. So these are all guys that you know are getting better, are going to take more usage. So around that, is there a spot for Gary? That's really, effectively, the question. And when we talk about the skills that he's improved on, yes, he's improved on all these things.

And I'll say, we've also seen the things that he hasn't improved on, right? Where it's like, you missed that layup. I'm not saying that that's just the whole thing. But again, he was set up easily for a wide open layup with the left hand. And he contorted his body to get to the right hand, which is, again-- that's something that Gary has talked about himself as something to work on.


ASAD ALVI: And that's why he's probably going to be on another short contract to work on that because if he gets 27, and he has a left hand, suddenly he can make plays out of the pick-and-roll, that makes him a completely different level player. So I think those are questions the Raptors will kind of have to balance.

And then you have to wonder. There are other teams that need a Gary Trent, Jr. to average 20 points a game for them and be the second option on offense, right?


ASAD ALVI: So those teams might be willing to actually give something up for Gary at this deadline, which is, I think, what the Raptors brass is going to manage to see, hey, if we can turn Gary into a player and some picks that effectively fills the same role but at a lower usage, maybe that's better for the team moving forward.

AMIT MANN: It's crazy. He missed that layup. But then a few plays prior, he shot-- he got the ball from the ground almost and vaulted up and hit a 3. I'm just like, man, that was an impressive, fluid motion. And then he missed that layup, man. Basketball is a fickle, fickle thing.