Raptors free agent could be a crucial signing for Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers need shooting, perimeter defense, and players who can help the team thrive beyond the LeBron James era. One Toronto Raptors free agent fits the bill.
Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles Lakers
Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles Lakers / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

When a team is limited in its resources, one of the most essential aspects of a general manager’s job is the ability to think outside the box. For Los Angeles Lakers front office leader Rob Pelinka, that will mean finding players who could be better in the purple and gold than they were at previous stops.

One of the players who Pelinka should be evaluating in that respect is Toronto Raptors swingman and pending unrestricted free agent Gary Trent Jr.

Trent, 25, is coming off of a season that some have viewed as a bit of a regression from the form that made him a hot commodity in 2021-22 and 2022-23. After averaging 18.3 points per game two seasons ago, as well as 17.4 in 2022-23, Trent registered a less gaudy 13.7 points per contest in 2023-24.

Context would suggest that the decline in production was inevitable, but it has resulted in many questioning if Trent is the explosive scoring threat that he was previously believed to be.

Such a decline, which includes lower percentages on two-point field goals and free throws, is certainly alarming. As Trent approaches unrestricted free agency, his production decrease could ultimately limit his options.

The Lakers should be doing a deeper dive into Trent’s 2023-24 season, however, as they’d likely find that he’s more of a fit for the franchise now than ever before.

Context for Trent’s statistical decline

Trent finished the 2023-24 regular season shooting just 42.6 percent from the field, which is on par with his career mark of 42.2 percent. He also shot 77.1 percent from the free throw line, which was his lowest mark since his rookie season.

Simply throwing those numbers out without context, however, would be unfair to a player who dealt with a great deal of adversity in 2023-24.

Trent’s 2023-24 campaign was, unfortunately, impacted by a number of nagging injuries. Despite this, he was on the court for 71 of a possible 82 games this season, with the majority of the time he missed coming near the end of a lost Raptors season.

Furthermore, Trent’s role was inevitably impacted when the Raptors traded OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam in exchange for three different players who occupy a similar position to Trent’s: RJ Barrett, Bruce Brown, and Immanuel Quickly.

Learning how to play with three new players on the fly, let alone when they have a similar role to your own, is a tough task for anyone in the NBA—let alone a relatively young player.

In Los Angeles, the Lakers would be able to help Trent figure out exactly how it is that he’s meant to fit in on a winning team.

How Gary Trent Jr. fits with the Lakers

For all of the talk about his decline, Trent actually had one of his most efficient scoring seasons thus far. He shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc, which was the second-best mark of his career, and his eFG% of .531 was his best since 2019-20.

Furthermore, Trent’s 13.7 points per game translated to 17.6 points per 36 minutes, which sits just 1.9 points below his average from 2022-23.

Fewer minutes in a more crowded perimeter rotation should not be held against a player who continues to be one of the most explosive shooters in the NBA. His career mark of 38.6 percent from beyond the arc is on par with some of the best shooters in the game.

The fact that he’s done so while averaging 2.7 three-point field goals made per game over the past four seasons is a clear indicator of exactly what he could bring to the Lakers.

For perspective: The Lakers ranked 24th in the NBA in three-point field goals made in 2023-24, and only pending free agent D'Angelo Russell buried more triples per outing than Trent.

It’s also worth noting that Trent took the influx of perimeter players in stride last season. Despite the decrease in his shot attempts, he increased his defensive intensity and shot the lights out at a mark of 43.1 percent on catch and shoot three-point field goals.

In other words: Trent is a 3-and-D wing with an unselfish mentality, thus making him the perfect complement to Anthony Davis and LeBron James.

As a free agent who's likely to command a salary that sits above the Lakers’ price range, the unfortunate reality is that acquiring Trent would be at least somewhat complicated. A sign-and-trade could be an option for the Klutch Sports client, however, and Los Angeles has the assets—perhaps Rui Hachimura if a trade for an All-Star falls through—to at least get Toronto on the phone.

As Pelinka looks to the open market to try and make the Lakers contenders again, Trent, a starting-caliber sharpshooter who has improved on defense, should be firmly on Los Angeles’ radar.