Nick Nurse Says Gary Trent Jr’s Defense Has Been the ‘Biggest Surprise’ of the Season – Sports Illustrated

The Achilles’ Heel to any NBA defense when the postseason rolls around is always the weakest link. Playoff games slow down and become strategic chess matches with teams trying to extract every advantage possible. Usually, that means running pick-and-rolls at the weakest defender on the court, forcing switches, and taking advantage.

When it comes to the Toronto Raptors, it was easy to point a finger at Gary Trent Jr. and wonder how he’d hold up in the postseason. The 6-foot-5 guard has no problem lighting up the scoreboard on offense, but he arrived in Toronto with serious questions defensively.

Those appear to have been answered.

Through five games, Trent ranks fourth in the NBA in deflections, per NBA Stats. He’s been relentless with his hands, getting into passing lanes and poking balls loose.

“I think the other guy that probably doesn’t get much talk about or hasn’t and is playing really really good defenses is Gary Trent,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Wednesday. “He’s just all up over people and on people and I’m really pleased.

“He’s been really aggressive and good with that this year and that really, it’s a big boost, I think to our defensive lineup.”

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It’s been the biggest surprise of the season, Nurse said Thursday. 

“We’ve asked all of our guys and him especially to get up into the ball and put pressure on it. I think it’s taken him a bit to understand that we mean that that’s the way we want to play. So now that he’s starting to do it we’ve realized that he does have kind of natural quick hands,” Nurse added. “There’s guys that do have that feel for when the balls gone in there. Boom. Their hands are in and out pretty quick. And that’s been a super, super pleasant surprise he’s already starting now to translate that even over to off-the-ball stuff.

“He started to rotate faster and he started to shop challenge harder and it’s a funny thing that when you play and give your best effort on that end, you can do a lot of things and he is.”

His improvement defensively has made it a bit of a pick your poison for teams facing Toronto. Either deal with the quick hands of Trent and Fred VanVleet or try to go one-on-one against OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, or Precious Achiuwa.

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