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Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. considered strong contender for DPOY

The Toronto Raptors signed Gary Trent Jr. to a three-year contract in free agency with the expectation that the young guard would provide a burst of scoring and shooting. Toronto likely expected him to make some improvements on the defensive end, but what they’ve seen from him in the last few weeks has been remarkable.

During his time in Portland, Trent was one of the worst defensive players in the game. Based on what fans and executives witnessed over his first few NBA seasons, Trent’s ceiling was likely that of a completely average defensive player.

Trent has not only become an average player on that end, but he’s been so impressive that he could end up on an All-Defensive team later in the year. Even with Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes on the team, Trent’s ability to make plays is standing out. The national media seems to agree that No. 33 is playing at an award-winning level.

The latest Defensive Player of the Year Ladder from NBA.com has Trent firmly in third place. Shot-blocking machine Myles Turner is ahead of him at No. 2, while Draymond Green took the top spot. Trent is outpacing names like reigning DPOY Rudy Gobert and Bam Adebayo.

The fact that Trent and Green are both vying for a defensive award would’ve been inconceivable just a year ago.

Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. is playing elite defense.

Trent is tied for second in the league in steals per game at 2.5, with only Chris Paul ahead of him. While Bulls guard Alex Caruso has made a huge impact on that team’s defense, he’s second in deflections per game behind the league leader in Trent.

Even Trent’s teammates have been taken aback by how quickly he’s gone from unplayable ba to impossible to remove from the lineup. Khem Birch claimed that he went from playing “no defense” to elite defense in one season.

The offense has not fallen off one bit despite the increased effort on the other end. Trent is averaged what would be a career-high 16.1 points per game on 43% shooting overall and 35% from 3-point range. Need him to knock down some clutch baskets? He can do that too, as he proved against the 76ers.

Trent is still just 22 years old, so he is far from a finished product. In a year where individual growth and evolution are being stretched just as much as individual wins and losses, the fact that Trent has added this arrow to his quiver while remaining lethal on offense proves that the Raptors are still elite at developing talent.

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