The Portland Trail Blazers have seen huge development from Gary Trent Jr. in the NBA bubble. They need to carry this on for next season and beyond.
In the relative wreckage that has been the end of the Portland Trail Blazers 2019-20 season, the growth of Gary Trent Jr has been a beacon of light in the NBA bubble. He is the prime example of greater opportunity delivering greater numbers.
In his rookie season, Trent only played 15 games, even starting one. He averaged 2.7 points and 0.7 rebounds in only 7.1 minutes of play. His shooting numbers were uninspiring, his slash line was .320/.238/.429.
However, opportunity comes knocking in the NBA, it is up to you as a player if you are ready. Fortunately for the Trail Blazers and Trent, he was ready to play when called upon this season. He played 61 of a possible 74 games, starting eight games, six straight when Damian Lillard was out.
How the Portland Trail Blazers benefitted from a minimum deal.
Originally drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the 37th pick in the 2018 draft, Trent was traded to the Blazers for two second-round picks and cash on draft day. Two weeks later the Blazers signed Trent to a 3-year minimum deal.
With the salary cap situation the way it is for the Blazers, this was a smart move. This season Trent repaid the favor by staying ready and answered the call when the injury curse struck the Oregon franchise.
In the 61 games, Trent averaged 8.9 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.8 steals in 21.8 minutes per game. On top of that his shooting improved as well. His slash line was .444/.418/.822 which is certainly positive.
The number that needs further understanding is the 41.8 percent from deep. In his rookie year, Trent hit 23.8 percent of his 1.4 shot attempts from deep. This season he hit 41.8 percent of his 4.4 shot attempts per game.
Defenses are no longer able to play off him to stop the likes of Lillard and CJ McCollum. Trent is a bona fide floor spacer whose shot had to be respected. In fact, that percentage was good enough for ninth-best in the NBA. To put it simply, that is growth.
However, the benefits of Trent did not end there for the Portland Trail Blazers. His efforts on the defensive end were incredible. Trent bought energy and tenacity to the defense the moment that he stepped on the court.
At 6’5″ he was able to defend multiple positions which is crucial to the Trail Blazers as they had so many players out with injury. His defense on Caris LeVert down the stretch in the NBA bubble finale against the Brooklyn Nets to help the Blazers take the eighth seed was a joy to watch. He put everything into it.
The NBA bubble may have been the making of Trent. He had several games in the regular season pre-COVID-19 where he excelled. He had a 30-point game and three 20-point games in this stretch. In the bubble, he has averaged 16.9 points per game and shot the ball at 51.6 percent from the floor and 50.7 percent from deep.
Next season Trent needs to build on his bubble development. He has shown a glimpse of what he is capable of and the Blazers will want to develop it as the 21-year-old has the potential to be a solid piece for many years to come.