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Blazers Season Review: Gary Trent Jr. Arrives

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A look at how Gary Trent Jr. went from a little-used reserve to a major contributor for the Trail Blazers.

Philadelphia 76ers v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The dust has settled from the Trial Blazers’ exit from postseason competition. Free agency, roster construction and the NBA Draft have crept into everyday conversation in Rip City. Before we turn the page on the longest season in the Blazers’ 50-year history, let’s take another look at the players that populated the roster during that journey.

Yesterday’s review highlighted Carmelo Anthony’s return to the NBA. Today’s post looks at the breakout year that Gary Trent Jr. put together.

Gary Trent Jr.

Games: 61 (8 starts) | PTS: 8.9 | 3P%: 41.8 | FG%: 44.4

Commonly listed as the second-best young talent on the Blazers’ roster entering the year, Gary Trent Jr. removed all doubt that he was the shining star of Portland’s youngsters in the 2019-20 season. In the aftermath of Rodney Hood’s achilles injury, it was Trent that became the steady cog in coach Terry Stotts’ wing rotation. Armed with active hands on defense and stellar accuracy on offense, the former Duke wing would not relinquish that time slot.

Trent’s court appearances leaped from 15 regular season games as a rookie to 61 games as a second-year player. Starting in January, he was installed as a full-time piece in the Blazers’ lineup. During that month, he averaged 23.1 minutes per game—up from 14.6 in December. Buoyed by an increase in playing time, Trent averaged 10.2 points over the course of 32 games between January and March.

Once the league resumed action in Orlando, Trent took his game to another level. During the Blazers’ eight-game seeding schedule, the 21-year-old wing connected on a blistering 50.7 percent of his three-point attempts. Defensively, he averaged just over a steal per game and was routinely asked to cover the opponent’s best offensive option.

In a must-win game against the Nuggets inside the bubble, Trent connected on seven of his 10 three-point attempts on his way to 27 points. Trailing only Damian Lillard’s 45-point outburst, Trent’s contributions helped Portland seal a 125-115 victory.

Trent’s exploits from that matchup against Denver are worthy of another look (or a dozen):

In the postseason, Trent was tasked with guarding LeBron James. Despite surrendering over three inches and 40 pounds to LeBron, Trent did not back down from the challenge. As a result of that taxing defensive assignment, his offensive output cooled over the five contests against the Lakers. Trent averaged 9.6 points on 35.2 percent shooting from the field in the playoffs.

Now headed into the final year of his rookie deal, the sky is the limit for Trent. He has already blossomed into the player that the Blazers hoped Allen Crabbe would become when they matched the offer that the Nets doled out in the summer of 2016. Trent is eligible for an extension this summer, but both parties could approach those conversations with caution. For the Blazers, they might wait to see how Trent responds to opponents that highlight his tendencies on scouting reports. For Trent, he has the potential to enter restricted free agency the following year with the perfect three-headed blend of youth, production and billing at a position of need.

Future speculation aside, Trent’s emergence was a beacon of light during an often dreary season. His continued development and burgeoning role inside the Blazers’ organization is a must-watch storyline for the 2020-21 season.