Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? Part 5A: Missing on Gary Trent Jr.

Regret, analyzed

We laid out the constraints and boundaries of this analysis in the series master post, Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? An In-Depth Series. This also has links to all the articles in the series.

Gary Trent Jr has been one of the breakout stars of the Bubble. Last night, he went from Blazers playoff scapegoat…

to hitting the game sealing three.

Even Draymond Green was tweet-analyzing his savvy play earlier in the bubble.

If the Warriors could teleport bubble GTJ onto the roster, would they? Probably yes. He’s a 6-6 wing with a good jumper who makes smart plays. However, let’s look back at:

  • the decision to pass on him in the draft (Spoiler: bad decision)

  • GTJ’s first year in the league to see if he would have helped GSW in their playoff run (Spoiler: no)

  • and whether he would have stuck with the team into this year. (Spoiler: no.)

Should The Warriors Have Drafted Gary Trent Jr?

Yes, but this is a trickier argument to make than it seems. GTJ made himself available for the 2018 NBA Draft and was ultimately selected #37. GSW had the #28 pick, and they selected Jacob Evans III.

So given how things unfolded with Jacob Evans, almost any other draft pick would have been better. However, if GSW could redo the pick, they arguably should go for Mitchell Robinson instead, already one of the top shot-blockers and offensive-rebounders in the league. If you don’t want Robinson, you might prefer our dear recent Warrior Omari Spellman as a pick instead.

GTJ was a tricky pick to project, as he was scouted as having a great three-point shot and so-so everything else. A quick scan of 2018 mock drafts landed him at #20, agonizingly at #28 to GSW, #30, #41. Generally speaking, he was considered late 1st round material, so it would have been very reasonable for GSW to pick him up at #28. But instead they went with the better reputation defender in Evans.

Verdict: Yes, all subtleties aside, GSW would have been better off drafting Gary Trent Jr. but only because Evans didn't work out at all.

Would Gary Trent Jr Have Helped The 2018-19 Playoff Run?

Here’s the part of the story that you don’t hear. GTJ played only garbage time in 2018-19 for POR, and on Jan 20, they sent him to the G-League.

Rip City Project wrote at the time:

Trent Jr has seen even less court time than Simons this season. He has played only a total of 33 minutes. If the Blazers are not going to give Trent Jr and Simons regular minutes, it makes a lot of sense to let them gain experience in the G-League.

Also, Simons and Trent Jr are both young and relatively raw as players, so it makes sense to have Baldwin and Caleb Swanigan occupying a roster spot instead. As I previously mentioned, Baldwin has been exceptional in the G-League. Swanigan played well earlier this season when he was temporarily part of the rotation.

Trent Jr. bounced up and down between the G-League and the big team, finally totaling 15 NBA games, 111 minutes played. He shot 5-21 from 3 (23.8%), his one elite skill getting him into the league.

Now in a different timeline, perhaps a GSW-drafted GTJ actually blooms quickly. But then you could make a similar fantasy argument about every prospect.

In our timeline, incredibly, everyone’s favorite punching bag Jacob Evans played more games (30), more minutes (204) and shot better from 3, 4-15 (26.7%) in 2018-19 than Gary Trent Jr.

Would GSW Have Kept Gary Trent Jr into 2019-20?

Possibly not. GSW needed to cut salary in order to get under the hard cap to perform the sign-and-trade that got D’Angelo Russell in return for Kevin Durant.

The only reason they might have kept him is that GSW didn’t give up on Jacob Evans either. And in full disclosure, while Gary Trent Jr couldn’t shoot in the NBA in 2018-19, he did tear it up in the G-League, in 6 games averaging 33.3 PTS on 50% three-point shooting. The world is full of talented G-League players who couldn’t stick in the NBA, but those are some eye-popping numbers.

But everyone who was screaming about Jacob Evans would have screamed louder to cut GTJ. You know it’s true. They would have been more like the first tweet in the article, not the second.

POR didn’t even really give Trent a chance until the middle of the next season, December 2019, when he worked himself into a decent bench role.

And without Trevor Ariza’s decision to skip the bubble to be with his son, GTJ might never have gotten a chance to show POR what he could do with volume play.

Final Verdict

Honestly, not much room for regrets, other than noting that GTJ is looking great and we wish we had him. Everything past that is magical thinking. The only people who can really complain are the ones who were complaining about it when GTJ had been sent to the G-League.

GTJ was noticeably worse in the pros than Jacob Evans III in 2018-19 playing for a team with less pressure to win-now. He might have been cut in 2019 summer, or at least you would have wanted that.

TL;DR: Evans outplayed Trent Jr in the 2018-19 NBA, GTJ would probably have been cut to sign-trade D’Angelo and the grouchy part of Dub Nation would have celebrated. Then we would have all cried this year when he blossomed.