The Toronto Raptors are heading into a precarious spot with Gary Trent Jr.
When the organization traded Norman Powell to Portland at the trade deadline, Toronto was saying it wanted to get younger and cheaper. Powell looked poised for a massive payday and the Raptors saw Trent as a high-upside, lights-out shooter, who could pair nicely with the team's future core. It was a move the organization made because it didn't feel entirely comfortable paying Powell something in the neighborhood of $20 million per season for a one-dimensional — albeit incredibly talented — offensive scorer.
Now the Raptors are heading into an offseason in which they'll have to pay up to keep Trent around. While there's little doubt he'll be back with Toronto, recent history suggests players of Trent's ilk tend to get a little overpaid in free agency.
Gary Trent Jr.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Right now, Trent is a sharpshooter who can nail catch-and-shoot three-pointers at an impressive clip and has a mid-range game that's still developing. He's not particularly explosive at the rim and his defense is just OK. That combination of skills is what makes paying him so complicated. He's an ideal role player for the Raptors, but these deals have a tendency to go awry when the contract doesn't match the role.
The precedent for Trent's contract would suggest he'll get something in the neighborhood of $15 million per season, likely on a three-year deal. That means Toronto will be paying Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Trent about $85 million in next season, about 75% of the NBA's expected salary cap and about 60% of the expected luxury tax threshold.
It's a deal the Raptors will have to make in order to keep the asset around, but every time one of these younger players gets paid it becomes harder and harder for Toronto to find the kind of surplus value that turns NBA teams into champions.