What Gary Trent Jr. could learn from Klay Thompson

Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. has a quick trigger and can shoot over almost anyone. To take his play to the next level in 2022-23, replicating a few skills from Klay Thompson's game might help the 23-year-old become more effective on the offensive end. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on our YouTube.

Video Transcript

OREN WEISFELD: But that goes back to like what you asked me, which is like, what does Gary Trent Jr. need to develop if he's going to be a core piece? Because I don't really consider him a part of the core yet. And two things come to mind for me. One is like, he's a really good two level scorer, but he never gets to the rim. And there's pathways for him to get to the rim, but he prefers to just stop and take a pull up jumper.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

OREN WEISFELD: And that probably just comes from the fact that all his life he's been able to make those jumpers. But it's not like a very efficient shot. And there are so many paths where I see he has a lane to the rim, but he prefers to pull up instead.

AMIT MANN: Mm-hmm.

OREN WEISFELD: Which is weird to me, because it's almost like he avoids contact.

AMIT MANN: He does.

OREN WEISFELD: And yet, like the most--

AMIT MANN: I was going to say that too.

OREN WEISFELD: --Dogged player, right?

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

OREN WEISFELD: It's weird, because, yeah, he avoids contact, and yet, he's like a dog. He's talking trash. He's into the ball, like, which is its own form of contact. So it's a little bit weird. But if Gary was able to, you know, he's never gone to the rim more than 15% of his shots in his career, and he finishes there sub-par as well. So that's one thing.

And then the second thing would be defensively, I think just adding some strength. What Harden did to him in game 6 was really a case of Gary not being strong enough. And Harden is a different beast. Like there's not many guards who are as strong as Harden. But you don't want to be a guy who can get picked on.

And I think that goes back to what I say with fit. He's right now the guy who's going to be picked on in the Raptors lineup in a playoff setting. And if he gets stronger, especially that lower body, then people won't be able to back him down quite as easily. And I think he'll be less of a target. So those would be the two things if Gary can do those into next season, then maybe he does have a bit more of a future.

AMIT MANN: People probably think based off this last postseason, it would be Fred VanVleet, because he was getting blown by quite a bit. And we need to remember that he was not right laterally, he wasn't right in any fashion, like he just wasn't the same player. You look at anything from January, some of those clips, and he was just a different defensive player, a different offensive player too. His cutting ability, he's been able to stop on a dime and shoot, it just, it's not comparable, and so he was definitely being targeted by James Harden in some cases, and he was getting blown by. But I think there's a lot more obviously there for Fred.

With Gary, I mean, it's funny that you mentioned the driving, because he did actually improve. I was looking at some of the percentages and he improved 5% better on his driving field goal percentage, which is a great improvement, but that does also show that there's so much room for growth when we're talking about these obvious cases where he's not able to finish down there.

I think of some of the transition buckets where he is being blocked against the 76ers because he doesn't have the skill I guess in some ways, and also the strength as well. And so I look at him on things that he should improve. And I think it's a bit more of a movement shooting ability. And when I say that, because he does have that a little bit already, it's more about being that player that can cut around the baseline off a few screens and just like turn into a jumper and shoot.

Doesn't need to dribble, just like do it. And Fred VanVleet is, I keep on mentioning him, but he showed a bit of that, and he was able to do it before his knee injuries came up. But Gary's taller, has a quick release, so he should, in theory, be able to add that element to his game. And when you have that, like now that kind of gravity of like a Steph Curry, not a, it's obviously not an apples to apples comparison, but like you got the defense turning their heads on a swivel because they don't know where Gary Trent's going to be.

And he adds that element to his game, that is going to be such a game changer. And driving, a better handle is going to help him a lot. I don't think he's necessarily going to be like a person who's going to be able to cross people up. But I would say that if he added a little bit more Klay Thompson to his game, he's a person that comes to mind for me, Gary is 6' 5", 209 pounds, Klay Thompson is 6' 6", 220, so again, he adds some weight, like you said, a bit more strength to him.

And Klay is really good. Like, he's not exactly the fastest player, but he's able to get downhill in the right ways, and he doesn't shy away from contact. And he's able to finish down there at a pretty decent clip. And his footwork down there is actually really impressive. Like, he has more down there than people probably give him credit for, because he is such a great shooter. But when it comes to like you know pivoting around and getting into maybe a medium jump shot or a mid-range shot or a little fadeaway, he's able to do it at a pretty decent rate. He's got a bit of a floater to it as well.

And I think Gary could look at a person like Klay that, a guy who's got similar athleticism, maybe a little bit taller, but you add some weight, don't shy away from contact, accept it, embrace it, and be able to finish through it, I think that those are ways that he's going to be able to be irreplaceable for the Raptors because he already has such an array of skills from a shooting perspective.

OREN WEISFELD: Yeah, I think that's a really good point. And he already got a lot better as a catch and shoot player this season compared to in Portland.

AMIT MANN: He did.

OREN WEISFELD: But yeah, like, if he continues, and that goes back to what I said about fit, where right now, I don't see the future where how is he going to have the ball in his hand. Because we have Scottie coming up and all these guys who need the ball. And so what you're saying makes a lot of sense, because now you imagine an attack where Fred and Gary are both running around screens.

AMIT MANN: Exactly.

OREN WEISFELD: And the ball is in Siakam and Barnes' hands, and they're finding those guys in the perimeter, like that is a much more dangerous offense than what the Raptors currently are operating with.

AMIT MANN: Mm-hmm.

OREN WEISFELD: And so I think that's a good point for sure.

AMIT MANN: You mentioned the catch and shoot. Based off his Tampa time with the Raptors, he was at 34% from a catch and shoot perspective. Got in the gym, Raptors said get better at catch and shoot percentages. He upped it to 41% with the Raptors this past season. So he's doing some of these things that we're talking about to become a better player.

And we got to remind ourselves that he's 23 years old. And so like no one else, like he's going to take these skills that he gained this year, he's going to go into the off season going and get better, and I'd be I'd be surprised if we didn't see a much better Gary Trent Jr. come next season, because he's got that mentality, that dog mentality like you talked about.

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