The year was 2017. THEY were once again sleeping on the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers ended up with 48 wins and the third seed in the brutal Western Conference, shutting down critics and keyboard warriors alike. Until…
Jrue Holiday happened.
The Blazers went on to drop the series in 0-4 fashion, but the bad news was just beginning.
The offseason was just as bleh as the first round of the playoffs.
Now we’re just weeks away with more questions than answers as it pertains to the 2018-19 edition of Rip City Season. Jared Wright and Bryant Knox of Oregon Sports News are back with their in-depth Portland Trail Blazers 2018-19 Season Previews for each player.
Today, we take a look at the Blazers’ second-round rookie, Gary Trent, Jr.
2017-18 Recap (College Stats)
Playing a single season at Duke University (what we call a “one-and-done” in the basketball world), Trent played the role of space-creator and knockdown shooter for Mike Krzyzewski’s 2018 squad. Playing alongside Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter, Jr. (is it just me, or did Coach K have a recruiting fetish for kids who were given their father’s names in 2017?) and Grayson Allen did have its perks…for the other three players.
Bagley, Carter, and Allen were all drafted in the first round of the 2018 Draft, the first two in the lottery. Bagley was taken for his potential by the Sacramento Kings at second overall, famously getting picked over European wunderkind Luka Doncic. Carter was selected seventh overall by the Chicago Bulls to serve as an all-around complement to their sweet-shooting Finn, Lauri Markkanen.
Allen, who’s continuing the Dukie tradition of being a highly-touted white player who pisses off lots of people that will probably disappoint in the big leagues, was taken by the Utah Jazz; you might have seen the Great Sauce Castillo roasting Allen with a crossover, then dunking on his head. I love Nik Stauskas, but if your defense makes Sauce Castillo look like Prime Allen Iverson, you ain’t long for the NBA.
Trent, meanwhile, was left in the draft dust—despite playing in a California prep system that basically feeds every top collegiate program, and despite being the 14th-ranked recruit in his class. Standing around and shooting isn’t very glamorous, and he fell to the 37th pick overall, landing with Sacramento. Instead of reuniting with his old college teammate in Bagley, however, Portland decided to reach into Paul Allen’s endless pockets and purchase Trent’s draft rights from the Kings.
Despite Trent being only 19, being able to shoot, and having NBA size for a 2-guard at 6’6” and 209 pounds, every team in the NBA decided they didn’t want him on a guaranteed first-rounder’s contract. Weird.
What He Brings to the Table
Trent, Jr. is the son of former NBA player Gary Trent, who started his career in Portland as well after a draft-day trade brought the 11th overall pick of the 1995 Draft to Rip City. Trent the Elder was a nine-year NBA reserve forward, bouncing around from Portland to Dallas to Minnesota. Backing up the likes of Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, and Brian Grant made for a fairly profitable career; Trent the Younger is also going to play against Dirk this season, which is the 1,952nd piece of proof that Dirk is old as dirt.
Besides having an NBA pedigree and a high recruiting ranking, Trent, Jr. brings a skill that everybody wants and needs: shooting. While he was shooting from the college three-point line, which is shorter than the professional arc, Trent the Younger did tally a cool 40 percent from the college version of downtown. Getting to that percentage in the pros is his first step toward earning playing time in Coach Terry Stotts’ rotation.
Trent, Jr. might at first glance seem similar to Allen Crabbe, the former second-rounder who carved out a role as a shooter in Portland before being grossly overpaid by Blazers GM Neil Olshey, then basically dumped to Brooklyn. The main NBA skill Crabbe had (and still has) was shooting, which is true of Trent.
Where they differ is: Firstly, Crabbe was two years older than Trent when he was drafted. Twenty-one years old isn’t a huge difference from 19, but the key thing to keep in mind is that 21 is closer to 25 than 19 is. Stupidly simple math, but it is a big difference when you’re trying to develop a player. You get more time with the young fella while his brain and body are at peak malleability. That matters, and it’s why there were a rash of one-and-dones the last decade—and why NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is mulling a change to his league’s eligibility rules to allow domestic 18-year-olds to be drafted without going to college or playing overseas.
Secondly, Crabbe and Trent had very different roles in college. Crabbe was Cal’s offensive be-all, end-all when he was there. Three years of having all the possessions you can eat is nice, if you project to be an elite scorer in the NBA. Which Crabbe…wasn’t.
The transition from being that alpha dog to merely a role player was probably tough for Crabbe, and might have been a reason why he didn’t have the success Olshey hoped for after inking him to that monstrous contract.
At Duke, meanwhile, Trent played the role he’s projected to play in the NBA: 3-and-D guy. He might not get the volume of shots he was used to as a Dukie, even considering he was the fourth fiddle at Durham, but the basic gist of the role should be familiar—and playing off Damian Lillard also helps a little bit.
Finally, while Crabbe was thrust into a backup role right after Wesley Matthews was let go by Portland, Trent should be way down the depth chart. We know about the two studs in Lillard and CJ McCollum, but Trent also has to compete for backup minutes with Seth Curry, Sauce Castillo (I will always prefer calling Nik Stauskas that, partly because it’s an awesome nickname, mostly because I hate spelling his actual damn name) and Wade Baldwin IV. Evan Turner might also spend time playing guard, given the scuttlebutt about the Blazers wanting to trot out lineups without either of their stars in the backcourt.
Trent the Younger may seem like an Allen Crabbe clone, but he’s quite different. Hopefully, he produces better than Crabbe did when his time comes, and that the guys in charge don’t throw $75 million at him for one half-decent season as a backup.
What to Expect in 2018-19
Gary Trent, Jr. should expect to get quality practice time, some good chances to study film, many opportunities to fill out his frame and work on the weaker parts of his game, and any other things that a rookie on a non-guaranteed contract should do.
He’ll also have the best seat in the house to watch the Trail Blazers play. The only difference between him and us is that Trent might actually get onto the court without several burly men hauling him out of the arena.
Check out the other players in our Portland Trail Blazers Player Preview Series: