Gary Trent Jr.’s play in the NBA bubble has been critical for Portland’s success, and plenty of people have noticed. Today Sam Quinn of CBS Sports listed Trent Jr. as one of his NBA All-Improvement Team players:
Trent’s hot streak is what happens when a very good shooter lands in a very good ecosystem that allows him to shoot enough to develop this sort of confidence. He’s going to be a very good shooter for a long, long time.
The defense, though? That wasn’t as obvious. He’s no Kawhi Leonard, but he is essentially the only defensive positive on a patchwork Blazers roster constructed entirely to put points on the board. He gave Luka Doncic genuine trouble on Tuesday. …
This has been a season-long progression, but it’s culminating in the bubble as Portland shuns any pretense of playing defense. When they get a stop, Trent is almost always somehow involved. The numbers won’t do him justice because of his teammates, but he is likely going to spend a lot of time on LeBron James in the first round. LeBron will get his points because he’s LeBron, but Trent is going to make him work for it. He may not shoot like a Curry forever, but none of them have ever tangled with LeBron defensively and lived to tell the tale.
Trent Jr. is scoring 16.9 points points per game in Orlando while shooting 50.7 percent from three on 8.4 attempts per game—a significant increase from his 7.7 points per game prior to the bubble. His minutes have also increased from 20 to 34.1 per game.
If Portland can get past Memphis in the play-in series, Trent Jr.’s ability to make things at least somewhat difficult for LeBron could be a big factor in a playoff series against the Lakers.