Gary Trent jr. is dominating off the bench, albeit in a new role

The Raptors have asked Trent to do different stuff. He's been awesome anyway.

Midway through the first quarter on Feb. 28 against the Chicago Bulls, Gary Trent jr. entered the game. He had started for most of his career to that point as a Toronto Raptor -- 123 of 140 games. But with Jakob Poeltl in town and winning his minutes by the second-largest margin in the league, behind only Nikola Jokic, something had to give in the starting lineup. That something was Trent, who moved to the bench as Toronto's big guns returned to health -- in a contract year, no less.

He did it with no public complaining, no leaks about dissatisfaction, and no questioning his role. Trent has been a consummate professional in a time when many players would not be.

It took him only two-and-a-half minutes to hit a triple against the Bulls once he entered the game. He had to get his bearings -- players are often extraordinarily routine-oriented, down to the last detail, which means when erstwhile starters come off the bench, it can throw off their first few moments in the game until they're up to speed. He missed a triple 26 seconds after entering the game and then missed a pull-up 2-pointer a minute later. But when he found his range, it flowed with ease. He scored six points in the first quarter, all on triples.

He finished with an excellent 19 points on 13 shots, and he even closed the game for the Raptors in their win over Chicago. His minutes were down against the Washington Wizards the next game (and he lost the minutes he did play by 26 points). Then up again in Game 2 against the Wizards, as he scored 26. Then down again against the Denver Nuggets as he scored only 13, albeit very efficiently.

Players need consistency, and because they play their starters so many minutes, the Raptors really only have consistent minutes for five players at a time. Trent is on the outside looking in for one game then back in the inner circle the next. It's hard. But he's been pheromonal in his time on the court when playing off the bench.

The efficiency is perhaps the most important component for Toronto. Trent is a gunner, and that's not a bad thing; in fact, the Raptors desperately need him firing away at the rim virtually every time he touches the ball. Most importantly, gunners need to hit. Trent's been doing that. It's not selfish -- it's required. Toronto doesn't have enough floor-spacers or shooters or quick-decision players on the roster, so Trent must do the work that most teams have a few different guys on. He's his own department, and he's running a tight ship.

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