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Toronto Raptors free agency ramps up as Gary Trent Jr OPTS IN, causing more questions

Trent Jr. will opt into his $18.5 million dollar player option for the 2023-2024 NBA Season, it was reported Tuesday.

2023 Play-In Tournament - Chicago Bulls v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

The first card was played for what should be an eventful Free Agency for the Toronto Raptors — on Tuesday afternoon, it was announced that Gary Trent Jr. will opt into his 18.5 million dollar player option for the 2023-2024 season.

Now, we went over this when Fred VanVleet opted OUT of his player option last week, but if you missed it, let’s refresh. A player option is something teams and players agree to during contract negotiations — essentially a player has the option to finish out the last year of their contract at the agreed salary, OR “opt out” of their contract and become a free agent.

Before Tuesday, many thought Trent Jr. would follow in VanVleet’s example and opt out of his contract. When he signed his deal in the summer of 2021, he had just been traded to the Raptors from the Portland Trail Blazers at the 2021 trade deadline. He showed promise on a struggling Tampa Bay Raptors team, and the Raptors wanted to see more.

In the two seasons since, he has gone from a bench player, to a starting calibre shooting guard, and then momentarily back to a bench player. He has grown exponentially, but also struggled to stay in rhythm.

Here are his stats for his two full seasons as a Raptor:

2021-2022: 18.3 points, 2.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 2.7 rebounds, 38.3% from three, 35 minutes per game

2022-2023: 17.4 points, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 2.6 rebounds, 36.9% from three, 32.1 minutes per game

As you can see, he took a slight dip in stats in this past season. He struggled a bit more with injury, went through a bit of a shooting slump, and was relegated to the bench for the most part after the trade deadline. He’s still so young, at just 24 years old, and has a ton of promise, and works extremely hard. It makes sense that the Raptors would want to keep him.

Another thing his stats reveal is that (when he’s playing well), the guy is a SHOOTER. He has the ability to be clutch from three, get in the passing lane, and has developed well on defence since joining the team.

Realistically, while he is definitely a great player, his slight dip in stats and the fact that he did grow TOO exponentially in the last two seasons are probably all reasons Trent Jr. decided to skip the free agency market and take his 18.5 million. Plus, it’s also being reported that Trent Jr. WANTS to stay with the Raptors long-term, and his team and the front office are working out an extension.

Yet, this all begs the question — Can the Raptors AFFORD to keep him? Out of all the free agents headed into the offseason, it almost seemed the most likely that the Raptors would let Gary Trent Jr. walk. Think about it — they’ve invested more into Fred VanVleet, and why accept that BONKERS Jakob Poeltl trade just to let him walk months later?

Does this mean Fred VanVleet is now more likely to walk in free agency? Are the Raptors expecting to keep Trent Jr or use him as a piece in a bigger deal? The questions are never ending, especially as we head into the NBA Draft.

The NBA rumour mill has been on full speed heading into the Draft and — much like at the NBA trade deadline — the Toronto Raptors seem to be the main characters. Right now, they have the 13th overall pick, but many think the front office is pondering trading up to get a higher pick.

The suspects in this talks are the same as usual — Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby. Obviously two hot commodities in the NBA, as they’ve developed from later picks to absolute super stars. Siakam has extreme versatility, scoring ability, and height, while Anunoby is more than just your average 3-and-D forward. Their names come up in most trade scenarios this week.

ANOTHER factor to ALL of this is the Raptors themselves. Reported to be eying more of a “re-tool” than a “re-build” this offseason, there is speculation as to whether they will do much at ALL. Any big moves with Siakam or Anunoby would probably (though not exclusively) happen before the NBA Draft on Thursday night. Then there is the situation of retaining free agents, and signing others...

All of this to say, Gary Trent Jr.’s opting in has surely launched the wheels into motion regarding the Raptors offseason plans. With him now on contract through next summer (possibly longer?), the Raptors will need to decide many things:

  1. Do they trade up in the NBA Draft or stick with the 13th pick?
  2. Do they trade for more late first-round or second-round picks?
  3. Do they trade any of Siakam, Anunoby or Trent Jr.?
  4. Do they try to retain both VanVleet and Poeltl?
  5. Do they let either of them walk and try to buy in free agency?
  6. Insert the hundreds of other options here

Anyone else READY for all of this to be settled so we know what to expect from this team next season?

More updates will be available on Twitter and Instagram as we approach both the NBA Draft and the start to free agency!