Blazers

Trent Due to Earn Eight-Figure Salary Soon

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Eight games out of first place in the Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers remain afloat amidst an injury run that has tested the team’s depth and character.

The losses of Jusuf Nurkic, C.J. McCollum, Harry Giles III and Zach Collins have severely limited both consistent scoring and general length within the frontcourt. Riding a four-game losing skid, Portland is looking for answers before their matchup against an offensively potent Warriors team.

Defensively, it’s clear Enes Kanter can’t shoulder the load, and though Robert Covington is an excellent wing defender, the Blazers will have to put up points in volume to win games. Every NBA fan knows Lillard is a walking 30-piece, but who else can the team rely on for points in an eight-man rotation? One player has been a catalyst for the Blazers when he’s feeling it.

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Duke product Gary Trent Jr. is currently averaging more points than he had in his one season under Coach Krzyzewski. At 15.5 points per game, he is already on pace to eclipse his total points last year by mid-March. Blazers fans knew they potentially had something special in Trent Jr. during his eruption in last year’s Orlando bubble. He has kept up the momentum, delivering quality minutes and offense when the Blazers need a C.J. replacement most.

On December 28th, the still relatively healthy Blazers took the court against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. A hungry Lillard and Co. looked to avenge their gentleman’s sweep from the bubble. That night, Portland beat Los Angeles 115-107. Lillard scored 31, but Trent Jr. stole the show. Coming off the bench, GTJ played all 28 of his minutes with fervor, scoring 28 points on 7-11 shooting from three.

When No. 2 plays well, the Blazers usually win. Portland is 13-6 when Trent Jr. scores over 15 points, with three of those losses coming off the recent four-game skid in which the entire team has looked worn out from extensive minutes. Given a fresh lineup, with Trent Jr. averaging close to 25 minutes a game, he can drop 15-20 points a night.

That said, the Blazers are where they are in the standings because of Gary Trent Jr. Lillard needs all the help he can get right now, and Trent Jr. has been the answer. Though he must work on his all-around game, the third-year player is the most important player on the roster outside of Lillard when the Blazers need a shot to fall (honorable mention Carmelo Anthony).

This coming offseason, Portland will have a decision to make as Trent Jr.’s rookie contract expires. Should they keep him, the franchise can reap the benefits of a multifaceted scorer who only promises to become a complete player. The problem, however, is that other franchises certainly will have their eye on the SG this upcoming free agency. Given his emergence as a scoring threat, he’ll provide an instant spark off the bench to any team looking to contend.

Whether he stays or leaves, expect Gary Trent Jr.’s salary to jump from seven digits to eight.

He deserves it.

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About Owen Skornik-Hayes

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