Gary Trent Jr. has been a much-needed silver lining for a battered Portland Trail Blazers squad desperately trying to establish a rhythm.
Last August, Rip City Project had the opportunity to sit down and ask the Portland Trail Blazers‘ unproven sophomore, Gary Trent Jr., about his expectations for the upcoming season and the personal goals he set for himself.
“All summer I’ve been working on my all-around game, especially shooting, passing, dribbling, defense, and finishing around the rim. Doing anything I can to make sure when an opportunity presents itself, I’ll be ready,” Trent Jr. said, clearly determined to leave an impact on Rip City.
And leave an impact he most certainly has. Over the last ten games, Trent Jr. has stepped up and averaged 13.9 points on an insane 45.3 percent shooting clip (29-for-64) from beyond the arc. If you remove one poor 1-for-10 performance against Golden State from the equation, that mark spikes all the way up to 51.9 percent.
After being largely restrained for much of the season yet again, Trent Jr. broke onto the scene in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 18. There, he stole the show by dropping 30 points off the bench while also collecting three steals and a block. GTJ’s efforts nearly willed Portland to a big win on the road, but it was not to be.
That being said, there were still a lot of positives to draw from such a loss. That performance proved to be the kindle that would sustain Trent Jr. on his current 10-game hot streak. He’s stepped up and become the x-factor off the bench that the Trail Blazers have desperately needed — currently with the lowest scoring second unit in the NBA.
I mean, when is the last time you’ve seen a bench player in a Trail Blazers’ uniform make these type of high IQ, hustle plays?
Trent Jr. has managed to capture Seth Curry‘s sharpshooting and Maurice Harkless‘s frenetic energy in a bottle to become a super support player capable of pushing the scales in Portland’s favor when Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are exhausted.
While his shooting streak has been quite captivating, GTJ’s defensive acumen also deserves equal praise. He helped hold Donovan Mitchell to 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting with four turnovers. Also locked up D’Angelo Russell to 9-of-27 shooting in their recent overtime bout. Outside of one-on-one matchups, Trent Jr. is a ball hawk, seen by the four steals he nabbed on Friday in Utah.
Don’t be mistaken, his teammates have taken notice as well. “It’s unbelievable,” Trent Jr. said, “When your teammates trust you… those vets… YOUR vets trust you, it’s a great thing.” Lillard and fellow Trail Blazer Carmelo Anthony did not bite their tongues when it came to praising the second-year shooting guard either.
As hot as he’s been, I think we’re just now finally getting a taste of what Gary Trent Jr. has to offer the league. While it took several injuries for him to see the light of day in the rotation, nobody could argue that he hasn’t taken full advantage of this moment. Catch him next as the Trail Blazers return home to take on the Miami Heat on Sunday night.