When the Raptors drafted Terrence Ross with the 8th pick right after Damian Lillard and Harrison Barnes, the immediate feeling was that of regret. The Raptors had missed out on two players, who by general consensus, were at the very least going to be serviceable long-term NBA players, and Ross was a wildcard. Afforded the evidence of the rookie seasons, that has proven to be the case.
The drafting of Ross ahead of Andre Drummond also raised some questions, but the availability of Jonas Valanciunas at the center served to silence those critics. Let’s leave aside the irony that one of the biggest needs heading into this summer is a center, and Drummond would’ve done just fine. Essentially for the Raptors, they so far seem to have gotten the worst of four consecutive picks, and if you asked someone if they’d flip Ross for the 8th pick in this year’s draft, they wouldn’t immediately shut you down.
Looking back at the key stats from this year’s campaign for Ross, you find that the one area he was expected to contribute in is where he has struggled the most: shooting. He shot 33% from three, and 40% overall, including 32% from the mid-range area. Not great, but it could be attributed to rookie jitters. For example, one of the greatest three-point shooters of our time, Dell Curry, shot 28% from three and 43% from the floor his rookie season and his career worked out just fine.
Beyond the statistics, he hasn’t provided the spark or impact that you might expect someone with his athleticism and enthusiasm to produce (-2.5 differential – not that this means much). The most important observation for me was helped not by a statistic, but the eye-test of seeing his knees literally shake every time he got the ball in an open spot, and the airball that followed. However, as we said, let’s write that off to rookie issues, poor distribution of playing time by Casey, and general mismanagement of the rookie.
Tim Leiweke has repeatedly stated that he wants an honest evaluation of the current roster, and that usually brings Andrea Bargnani to mind. You have to wonder though, whether Terrence Ross doesn’t fall into that category of player. Colangelo had labelled Terrence Ross as an untouchable during the Rudy Gay trade negotiations, which was quite surprising at the time, and in complete contradiction to the lack of playing time afforded to him by Casey.
Assuming the evaluation of this roster by the new GM doesn’t coincide with Colangelo’s view, then you have to see what tweaks can be made. Given his contract and lack of amnesty option, Rudy Gay is a mainstay, the same could be said for Landry Fields. Linas Kleiza is a great amnesty option. Beyond that you have players who you actually want on your team given their contract and abilities (Valanciunas, Lowry, Johnson, Acy), and those that fall in the category of tradeable assets, and that group is basically DeRozan and Ross.
I guess the question you should be asking is where the hell I’m going with this piece, and the answer to that is nowhere in particular. Here’s the loose classification of the pieces into five pieces:
Keep: Valanciunas, Lowry, Johnson, Acy
Forced to Keep: Gay, Fields
Out No Doubt: Bargnani, Kleiza
Assets to improve roster: DeRozan, Ross, Lucas
Free Agents: Anderson, Telfair – Bring back as deep bench, if need be.
There you have it. If the current roster is to be improved, it’s groups #3 and #4 that’ll have to get the Raptors the return they need, and the player that has transitioned into that group for me is Terrence Ross, because I don’t see the incoming GM giving him a high valuation.
The Masai deal still not being sealed leads one to believe that either he’s holding out for money (unlikely as he’s apparently been offered a massive raise already), or that he views inheriting the Toronto roster as being setup for failure. An honest appraisal of the roster will tell you that there are some serious challenges ahead in getting this team to become a serious contender in the East.
Anyone who accepts this job will have to either, 1) sell a long-term vision to the fans that is predicated on a slow cleansing of the existing roster, or 2) come out swinging and right the wrongs in a high-risk fashion. I’m not sure Leiweke has an appetite for the former, which means trades galore coming up, leading me to believe that if you can’t shed Gay, you got to look elsewhere and #4 in that list above looks to be the sweet spot.
Honestly, I can’t help but think that if Colangelo hadn’t done anything this year, i.e., not trade for Gay and not extend DeRozan, that this franchise would have been in an infinitely better position than it is now. The Raptors would have saved around $24 million in salary (Gay – Davis + DeRozan’s new deal – DeRozan on a reasonable $6M deal). That would mean the Raptors would currently be around $42M in salary instead of $66M. That is a GM screwing up.
However, it is what it is and one of the next logical, expedited ways out of this is to reduce the redundancy on the team and ship one of our three similar swings (Gay, DeRozan, Ross) and go from there.
Your thoughts are welcome, let’s start solutioning!
[See Also: Money Ain’t Everything – Ujiri Stalling]