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The Toronto Raptors asked Gary Trent Jr. to hone in on a few key details to help this year's team and Trent Jr. has done that and more so far. Follow Yahoo Sports Canada for all your Toronto Raptors coverage.
IMMAN ADAN: All right, so let's start with the starters. Let's get into another guy who's missed significant time. When he's played, has looked absolutely phenomenal. What were your preseason expectations of Gary Trent, Jr.--
ASAD ALVI: Gary--
IMMAN ADAN: --and what grade would you give him right now?
ASAD ALVI: Honestly, Gary Trent, Jr., again, the work-- the thing that's really been tough with him has been the freak-- like just the injury time that he's missed, right?
IMMAN ADAN: OK, but you can also--
ASAD ALVI: I think you can say that about virtually everybody.
IMMAN ADAN: If you want to give him some extra credit-- sorry. If he can get some extra credit, bench outfits.
ASAD ALVI: Yeah, he's definitely taken that Serge Ibaka role of showing up on the bench, like, just ready to stand out. Like, there's nothing funnier than seeing-- because the Raptors playing his short rotation, it's like on the bench, there will only be, like, three Raptors on the bench at any time that aren't in, like, their warm ups-- like full warm ups.
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah.
ASAD ALVI: It'll be like Justin Champagnie, Chris Boucher that are wearing jerseys because they're going to sub in, and then it's Gary Trent, Jr. in whatever outlandish outfit he's wearing and then just like five dudes, like, basically dressed up in warm ups, and it is quite the spectacle to see on the court. So I've got to give that to-- got to give that up to Gary Trent.
But in terms of his play, I think he's been a solid B plus, A minus this season. I'll give him an A minus because I don't think any of us expected the defense and steals, even though he's tailed off a little bit and has been gambling a little bit more as of late. The pull-up shooting has been just like a massive boon to the offense, and in the time that he's been away, you've seen how the Raptors have struggled in the halfcourt, especially when teams load up on Fred and Pascal. And they just don't have that additional shooter to hurt teams.
And Gary just makes a ton of hard shots. He's also really fun to watch. So from the entertainment perspective, Gary is like a solid A plus because, like, there's nothing more entertaining to see than Gary Trent turn down an open shot to take a contested shot and drill that shot.
IMMAN ADAN: People were really, like, up and down on Gary Trent, Jr. after the trade last year, and I think giving up on a guy like Norman Powell, who was playing the best basketball of his career, for Gary Trent, Jr., especially because-- I get it with fans. You want to-- you're looking at the on-the-court product right now as opposed to thinking about what that's going to look like in five or six years, and Gary Trent, Jr. being six years younger than Norman Powell matters a lot to Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster building the team. But as fans consuming the product, we're like give us the best player right now. We want to watch the best product right now.
And Gary had some really high moments coming out right away. He hit those game winners. He had his career high. He was riding on a high. And then I don't think this is so much a fault to Gary, one, is that he got injured, and two is that he was playing with a lot of guys that weren't actual rotational players that he had to really sort of carry. And we saw his numbers dip, and we saw people start to turn on him a little bit, and his defense was brought up as a main issue.
So coming into this season, you said it, pleasantly surprised with his defense. He was leading the league in deflections for at least a quarter of the season and could very well have continued to be if he just wasn't injured all the time. Just incredibly active hands, and he provides exactly what this Raptors team needs. So often when we watch this game we're like, if Khem and Gary were here-- if Khem and Gary were here. And it's unfortunate that the Raptors have just missed both of them for so much time.
ASAD ALVI: And the hope is that Gary Trent, Jr., is back soon. You're hoping that the ankle swelling kind of dies down and it becomes a nonissue going forward because, again, he's been 40%-- he's shooting 48% from 2-point range, and a lot of that is pull-up 2-pointers and midrangers, which he's been incredible at. And then he's shooting 37% from 3 on 7.3 attempts, and he does not take a lot of easy attempts. He has a lot of catch and shoots, but he also takes some very difficult ones.
So to have that ability and have that guy on the team is [INAUDIBLE], and the best part is he just turned 23. So he's also one of the youngest guys on the team.
IMMAN ADAN: Incredibly young, yeah.
ASAD ALVI: So it's awesome that the Raptors have a guy like that. The contract, sure, could be better, but like solid A minus. For this season so far, he's been a solid A minus.