Gary Trent Jr committed to the Toronto Raptors in June when he opted into his player option for this season, and beyond the $18.5 million commitment from the Raptors that comes with it, the question remains if the team can commit to Trent Jr as a starter, or if he’s opted into a contract-determining year as a super sub.
The Minnesota-native was in and out of the starting lineup last season, which given that he still signed into his option and gave up unrestricted free agency suggests that if that remains the case, it won’t cause the relationship between player and team to deteriorate (which if you believe the rumor mills has happened plenty within the locker room in the past).
Nevertheless, the question will continue to float on if Trent Jr can play his way into Darko Rajanovoc’s starting five night in and night out, as well as if he should even start there. Trent Jr’s battle with newly-minted world champion Dennis Schroder is probably the closest in all the position battles but is also one that comes with the understanding that in a 6-month season there are bound to be some shifts.
What will define this starter/bench player balance for GTJ is simply the fact that he’s playing for a contract and, well, starters tend to get paid more than reserves. So will the money he may think he’s losing come into play and mess with head? Or can he find comfort in being the leader in what the Raptors can only hope will be the revival of the Bench Mob?
Regardless of how he gets onto the court or for how long, the Raptors will look to count on Trent Jr for points, and lots of them. Statistically, last season was a tick off of where his offensive performance can be, averaging 17.4 pts per game and 36.9% from beyond the arc, but a reinvigorated offensive approach should see his numbers pick back up. Despite his lineup inconsistency last season, Trent Jr still finished the season 33rd in made triples and is guaranteed to see an increase in on-ball touches given the departure of Fred Van Vleet.
Thought this was a good set to free-up Gary Trent Jr.— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) October 9, 2023
Horns cross (elbow action with a cross screen) and then into a flare screen.
Feel like this can either get him the mismatch he wants, or if the defense falls asleep, get him a wide open look. pic.twitter.com/maFUeAaQer
It’s shaping up to be a hell of a year for GTJ off the court and in the office, but it goes without saying that what happens on the court, regardless of how he gets there, will guide those conversations. As long as Trent Jr doesn’t put his cart before his horse, and continues to show up as the workhorse he can be, those office conversations should end at a figure significantly higher than $18.5 million.