The Trail Blazers will need production from the youth on their roster if they hope to claw their way inside the Western Conference’s postseason picture. Without Trevor Ariza in the fold, Portland’s best option falls on the shoulders of breakout second-year wing Gary Trent Jr.
Trent’s potential for success during the NBA’s Orlando-based restart garnered attention from ESPN NBA analyst Kevin Pelton. After reviewing the Blazers’ roster, Pelton listed Trent as the Blazers player most likely to surprise in the weeks ahead.
The latest in a line of Blazers second-round steals that includes Will Barton, Pat Connaughton, Allen Crabbe and Jake Layman, Trent will help fill in for Trevor Ariza, who is not participating in the restart. While I’d bet on Carmelo Anthony to start at small forward for Portland, Trent figures to finish games as the team’s top wing defender and a knockdown 3-point shooter (39% this season). Trent will take tougher defensive assignments from starting guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and feast on the open looks they create.
Outside of attention in the media, Trent also received praise from coach Terry Stotts after a set of strong practices over the weekend. NBC Sports Northwest’s Jamie Hudson documented Stotts’ positive praise of the former Duke standout.
“He has picked up where he left off. We were just talking about that with him before practice. The difference for him as opposed to a year ago, he hit his stride during the season, he’s in terrific shape, defensively is where he made the biggest jump. I think offensively, he was shooting the ball well. He’s not playing as much one-on-one. He moves well without the ball. He knows the sets. So, I think it was obvious to everybody this year the jump that he made from his rookie year to the next year… But yeah, he’s picked up right where he left off.”
Through 53 appearances (eight starts) this season, Trent has produced 7.7 points per game. In the month of February, when Trent was featured for longer stretches, his scoring average surged to 12.1 points per game during that span.
You can read the full list of potential surprise players at ESPN.