Coming off a career season with the Raptors, Gary Trent Jr. has major incentive to show off a more balanced approach to his offensive game. Full podcast looking at most improved candidates and game-changing skill additions is on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed and on our YouTube channel.
KATIE HEINDL: When I went back and was looking at the stats from last season, he's another player similar to Precious who found a great niche for himself with the Raptors because he represented something that they really needed, primarily shooting at that time. But he played the most minutes of his career last season. His 3-point percentage climbed.
But I was looking, too, at his effective field goal percentage. It climbed, but it also tapered off. And what I like about that is that it's more representative of balance, much different than his career-best shooting season in Portland, which I think was the second or third season, because then he was just a gunner, right?
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
KATIE HEINDL: This adjustment, I think, reflects a much more balanced, all-around role. And with someone like Gary Trent, Jr., I think there was some criticism of the fact of would he be able to handle--
AMIT MANN: Sure.
KATIE HEINDL: --a role like that, or was he just gonna be representative of a shooter, kind of like a plug-in kind of shooter when Nick Nurse needed him? But again, as we should know, and we've talked about it, I think, with every single player we've mentioned, that is not the way that this team operates. You don't just come in and really play a singular role. Nobody gets that.
Maybe Kawhi got that a little, but he may have been the only player in Raptors-- current Raptors history to do that. But, yeah, you don't just get to come in and play a singular role. You have to do a little bit of everything.
AMIT MANN: Sure.
KATIE HEINDL: And I think Gary Trent, Jr., really stepped up to that challenge. I think he also looked much more comfortable with it by the end of last season. I think you got a sense of that. I mean, you and I got a sense of that.
I think it seemed like he came out of his shell a little bit, still super quiet, like, you know, demure sort of guy. But I feel like within the playoff run, especially that series against the Sixers, he looked much more comfortable under that kind of pressure. So again, I think when you look at the additions around him, someone like Otto Porter just like can maybe take the load of shooting off. I think--
AMIT MANN: Sure.
KATIE HEINDL: --seeing what Pascal and Scottie also did, have done, so far in just various camps over the summer, if the distribution--
AMIT MANN: Ooh.
KATIE HEINDL: --yeah, like if the shooting distribution spreads out a little bit, I am really excited to see the way that Gary's gonna step up his game this season, too.
AMIT MANN: I didn't go to too many games last season because I just-- life couldn't afford that opportunity, but I'm hoping to go to more this year. But I did go to practices. And early on in the year, due to some COVID things, there was a late cancellation of a practice. But I ended up going to OVO anyways 'cause I just missed the memo.
So I get there, and obviously no other media are there. And Fred's already talking to the media. And I'm like, well, I guess I missed this press conference. But Gary Trent, Jr., was there. And he's just, like, hanging by the door to the media area where the Raptors' podium is.
And he just looks at me. He's like, go in. I'm like, I'm not going in. He's like, no, go in. Said, go in, go in. Do it.
I'm like, no, man. I'm not going in, you go in. He's like, I'm not going in. And then he just, like, yelled in the background. You could hear it on the press conference. Anyways, that was my lone interaction with Gary Trent, Jr., this past season.
KATIE HEINDL: Very funny.
AMIT MANN: Yeah, he is.
KATIE HEINDL: I think because he's kind of shy and quiet, he gets like a bit of a-- you know, superstars are always meant to be like larger than life, right? And like way over the top. And Gary's not really like that, but I respect it.
AMIT MANN: I mean, his clothing is larger--
KATIE HEINDL: Yes.
AMIT MANN: --than life.
KATIE HEINDL: His--
AMIT MANN: And so--
AMIT MANN: And you see his dad. Yes.
KATIE HEINDL: This fits. Yeah.
AMIT MANN: His father, like, clearly, there is a loudness to him. We just don't see it.
KATIE HEINDL: Yes.
AMIT MANN: With the media, he's pretty reserved. And that's OK. I want to see exactly what you're talking about. And I mentioned OG, what he needs to get that big payday upcoming.
Gary Trent, Jr., has a player option after this season. If he wants to get that big payday with the Raptors or not with the Raptors, whatever it's gonna be, he's gotta show that he's more than just a shooter, right? He's got to show that he's an on-ball creator, that he can work in the pick-and-roll, that he can make smart passes.
And that, right there, is gonna make him a much richer player. People like being rich, I believe, right? And I think if he shows that he can handle those kinds of reps with the Raptors' offense-- I did a video a little while ago on how the Raptors get OG Anunoby more touches. And one of my theories was, run a lineup out there with OG and Gary Trent, Jr., and pick your three 3-point shooters if you like as some sort of bench units slash starters to get both those guys more on-ball reps early on in the season, because I think that'd be valuable for both of them.
And if you think about, later on in the playoffs, what we saw this past season with the 76ers, the Raptors didn't have enough on-ball creators. And Fred not being there was obviously a factor. Well, he was, but really, he wasn't.
But it's just gonna diversify your offense so much. It's gonna make them much better players. And I think it'd be a great step for Gary if he can do that. If he's able to be a better finisher around the rim, that'd be cool too.
I'm not sure if he's got that-- not everyone's gonna have that ability, shooter-- the shooter's, like, I think of, like, a Klay Thompson. Can he just get to the basket and finish down there with confidence? That would be good, because Klay's still a shooter, but he can go down there, he can post up some smaller players, and he can hit some mid-range shots and stuff like that. So he doesn't have to be LeBron or Pascal or whatever, but he just has to be competent down there. And--
KATIE HEINDL: That's a good point, yeah. To get to see him get comfortable coming out of the corners-- obviously, he's extremely comfortable in his kind of shorter pocket.
AMIT MANN: Sure.
KATIE HEINDL: But he's pretty on the small-- I don't want to say he's small, but he's definitely on the smaller side. He's really quick. There-- I think-- and his footwork is pretty nice. So--
AMIT MANN: It is.
KATIE HEINDL: --I think to like be able to see him-- yeah, make a rush into the paint, kind of work his way around some guys.
AMIT MANN: Mmm!
KATIE HEINDL: That would also be just a lot of fun to watch.
AMIT MANN: It would be. It's hilarious that he has, like, the hardest skill, which is being a hard shot maker. He has that. But then something that people might argue is a little bit simpler-- or, at least, I mean, for someone who's a little bit bigger than him, probably it's a little bit simpler. But he has the hard thing down first. And now this is a step that he has to add a whole new dimension to his offensive game, to be a real downhill threat.