Raptors' Gary Trent Jr. has been a star in his role this season

On the latest edition of Spotlight, Samson Folk shows how Gary Trent Jr. has been masterful working off Pascal Siakam this season.

Video Transcript

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SAMSON FOLK: Gary Trent, Jr. Is touching the ball less, dribbling the ball less, shooting more, and providing the best offensive output of his career. Let's talk about why that's happening and why that's working. I'm Samson Folk, and this is "Spotlight."

So, first, we have to understand why Gary Trent, Jr.'s role has changed, even though it's been subtle. And an illustrative point in that is that, for the first time since the championship season, Pascal Siakam is getting more touches than Fred VanVleet. And, even in that championship season, it was only a difference of three.

And so Siakam's tremendous brand of mismatch basketball has created an offensive environment where Gary Trent, Jr. Is probably the largest beneficiary of all those doubles he's seeing. Pascal Siakam is doubled at a top-10 rate in the NBA. And, on those doubles, it's the most efficient form of offense for the Raptors. If Luka gets doubled, it's not as efficient as Pascal getting doubled. It's great offense.

Let's run through the numbers very quickly. When Gary is on the court with Pascal, they have an offensive rating of 117 points per 100 possessions. Without Pascal there, it plummets to 100. He's receiving over 30 passes from Pascal every game and shooting 54% from the floor and from 3 on those passes. Those passes, they account for roughly a third of his points.

And, even further, a decent amount of his shots that come from Fred VanVleet, where he shoots 40% from 3, are hockey assists from Siakam, who is third in the NBA in that category. Gary is a tremendous presence next to Siakam on the floor.

GARY TRENT, JR.: For sure. You know, he gets a lot of attention. They talk about him in the game plan. They prep for him. You know, you're going to see it. Obviously, every team we play, they're sending two at him, trying to get the ball out his hands. Obviously, I'm trying to make it easy for him, in a sense, and just be there, catch and shoot, helping him as much as I can.

SAMSON FOLK: And, last year, a lot of attention was paid to the fact that, in January, we took a look at Fred VanVleet's catch-and-shoot numbers, and he was shooting around 52% on very high volume in catch-and-shoot, just unbelievable offense. Well, early on in this season, Gary Trent, Jr. is shooting more catch-and-shoots than he's ever taken from 3, six a game, and he's shooting 48% on those. This is tremendous offense for the Raptors and something that they've been able to ratchet up because of that mismatch dominance with Siakam, because of his efficiency out of those doubles, and because of Gary Trent, Jr.'s ability to move to supply his own offense as a shooter.

And this leans into my next point. That is, if you think Gary Trent, Jr. is just the guy standing behind the arc waiting for the ball to come into his hands, that's not the case. He's working for it.

The first step of being a great shooter is just that-- being a great shooter. But the next step is always how you get yourself open with movement. Gary is filling the outside lanes in transition more often. He's forming up off of Siakam's drives extremely well. And, as he finds the balance between finding the soft spots in a defense and maintaining passing lines-- because that's not always intuitive-- he will get more and more dangerous as a shooter.

In transition, if the defense sinks, you stop short above the break. If they press the ball handler, you sprint to the corner. His shooting is something to be feared, and he's moving much better, which weaponizes it further.

And weaponizing that shooting allows for advantaged closeouts for Gary. We saw a few of them last year from Gary in the clutch, but this layup against Ben Simmons is a perfect example of a shooter who doesn't typically threaten the rim using Simmons' fear of his jumper to get downhill. Trent, Jr. is well below average as a passer, yes, but these advantaged close-outs should allow him to get downhill, get reps to see how the defense rotates.

And he's young. He's one of the best shooters in the world. He should be able to see enough of these things, over time, that he improves as a passer, be it lay-downs or whatever else comes his way. That's something he can improve upon.

We've seen stretches where he's averaged four assists per game, and it was mostly done out of pin-downs and dribble hand-offs, all because of his shooting gravity. And, against San Antonio, we did see some creation from him, a lot of his own looks off his own dribble. That's tremendous to see. He had great numbers last year in isolation, and his pull-up stuff has always been able to kind of keep him afloat.

It has been inconsistent, though. And what we might have found here, with working off of Siakam and doing this type of basketball, is that Gary might have finally staved off that inconsistency that has plagued his shooting to this point. He's occupying a very cool niche where he's playing his selfless brand of basketball, where he's shooting every time it touches his hands. Because everybody knows, if the ball reaches his hands at a certain point possession, there's no better look than the one that comes from Gary Trent, Jr. And all this is because he's able to recognize and implement properly how to play off of his star, Pascal Siakam.

Thanks for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed it. For more of my work, find me Raptors Republic, and keep coming back for this "Spotlight" series. I'll see you.

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