In a season that hasn’t played out in the win column like the Portland Trail Blazers anticipated, it has provided an opportunity for some younger players to get more minutes, and one player that is taking full advantage of an increase in minutes is Gary Trent Jr.
The second-year second-round pick out of Duke was known for his shooting prowess coming out of college, and this season he has shown that he can do that at the NBA level.
Last season in just 15 games, Trent Jr. only went 5/21 from deep.
However, in a tough season for the team, Trent Jr. since December 30th, in 19 games, is averaging 9.4 points per game, but more importantly, he is shooting 42.9 percent from three.
His ability to knock down the three off the bench has been huge in Portland winning six of their last eight games.
Overall on the season, Trent Jr. is averaging just 6.4 points per game on 41.8 percent from deep.
With all of the injuries that Portland has been dealing with, production off of the bench has been an issue. Anfernee Simons was the young guard that came into the season with a lot of hype, but since the start of the New Year, Trent Jr. has been the most productive Blazer off of the bench.
There hasn’t been a better example of that than last night against San Antonio, where Portland outscored the Spurs 39-25 in the fourth quarter and Trent Jr. went for 12 points alone in the quarter on 4/4 from three. On top of that, he dished out three assists.
The emergence of Trent Jr. has been huge for a lot of reasons. First off, in Portland trying to make the postseason this season, he has had a big impact with his production off the bench. But also, going into next season his breakout is perhaps even more important.
Portland doesn’t appear to have a lot of flexibility to add players this offseason, but with the team just getting healthy going into next season there’s a good chance for a big improvement in the win column and with Trent Jr. set to make just $1.6 million next season, he is a very inexpensive bench option that would fill a need of having to add a fourth option in the backcourt with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Simons.
Going forward the play of Trent Jr. is going to continue to be critical. He is going to continue getting a good amount of playing time off the bench, and that’s well-deserved.
If he continues to shoot the ball at the rate that he has been of late, it’s going to make managing this offseason much easier for Neil Olshey and the rest of the front office, because they will be set in the backcourt, and if Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic are fully healthy next season, and depending on what happens with Hassan Whiteside, they will likely just need to make an addition in the frontcourt, but largely the roster will be set going into next season, it would just need to be healthy.
One thing is for sure though, Gary Trent Jr. has been given a great opportunity and he has run with it.
Top Photo: Bruce Ely/Trail Blazers