Later this summer, a Duke basketball alum can dramatically increase your stock.
Former Duke basketball sniper Gary Trent Jr. will become a restricted free agent next summer, so anything he does from time to time has the potential to seriously affect his future paychecks. The Portland Trail Blazers, who acquired the No. 37 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft through a trade that night, will be among the teams in action when the 2019-20 season resumes on July 31 in Orlando.
With a 29-37 record, the Blazers rank ninth in the Western Conference standings, just 3.5 games out of eighth place for the Memphis Grizzlies. Thus, with eight remaining league-determined games in the regular season for the 22 inviting squads, not to mention the potential for a play-in series if the difference between eighth and ninth in any of the conferences is less than four games, Portland has a reasonable shot to sneak into the postseason.
However, the franchise’s chances of doing so took what appears to be a major blow this week when veteran winger Trevor Ariza announced that he will not be traveling to Disney World (players have until Wednesday to unsubscribe).
Enter Trent Jr., the alleged replacement initiator for Ariza at the perimeter. After contributing just 2.1 points per contest in 15 rookie appearances, the former 6-foot, 5-pound, 210-pound McDonald’s All-American landed a bigger role this season. He has played 53 games in his second year, drawing eight starts, and is averaging 7.7 points in 20.0 minutes per game while shooting an impressive 38.8 percent from beyond the arc (83.3 percent of the charity fringe).
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Oddly enough, Trent Jr.’s main competitor to Ariza’s starting figures is former North Carolina Nassir Little. However, as Clutch points Writer RP Salao explained that the Blue Devil seems to be a better option than the Tar Heel:
“First, there is their 19-year-old UNC rookie … While Little does have the size and breadth to handle some difficult tasks, it will definitely be an offensive responsibility for them in late game situations. A better option might be Gary. The sophomore sophomore was starting to rise before the league closed. In 10 games since the All-Star break, Trent Jr. played in 29.3 minutes per game. He even racked up a respectable 11.2 points per game. “
Under pressure, the Duke basketball product appears to be more powerful.
Trent Jr. has also proven to be the clutch, ranking second on the team, behind All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, with 23 triples in the fourth quarter since New Year’s Day. Furthermore, according to Rip City Project Taxpayer Marlow Ferguson Jr., the 21-year-old has a +17 plus-minus in the last 12 minutes of regulation during this span while shooting 47.8 percent from the field, a 5.2 percent increase from his normal level.
As a full-time freshman starter for a 2017-18 Duke basketball team that lost a victory before the Final Four, Trent Jr. exhausted 40.2 percent of his overall 3-point attempts, 43.5 percent in the ACC game, averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals for the season.
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Still, it will certainly be interesting to see how Trent Jr. responds to increased responsibility in late July and early August. If it ends up playing a big role in helping Portland exceed expectations, then it will definitely become a bigger part of the franchise’s plans for the 2020-21 season and then be online to cash in on a good contract a year to from now on.
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Stay tuned Ball durham for more news and insights about Gary Trent Jr. and other former Duke basketball players now in the NBA.