It would be difficult to call the Toronto Raptors’ performance at this year’s Las Vegas Summer League anything other than a positive development. Jonas Valanciunas was making believers out of those on hand and Dwight Buycks was the breakout point guard of the event. The Fresh Quince, meanwhile, showed the potential to be more than just an end-of-the-bench grinder, showing off an improved jumper in mechanical terms and scoring 14 points per game on 50% shooting.
There was one Raptor roster player, however, who was unimpressive. And if you hadn’t figured it out by process of elimination, it was Terrence Ross.
In the 2012 tournament, Ross was fresh off being selected eighth overall by the Raptors. The anticipation was pretty high given his lofty draft position, the team’s need for another wing player and the fact that he played at Washington, meaning many fans on the East hadn’t gotten an extended look at him. He averaged 14.4 points a game but on just 37% shooting, going just 6-for-24 from long range.
It was somewhat unexciting but not really disappointing given his rookie stature.
Fast forward to this year’s tournament, with Ross coming off a rookie season where he showed some potential but was mostly unimpressive. He averaged just 6.4 points in 17 minutes a game, shooting 41% overall and just 33% on triples. Sure, three-point shots develop later for a lot of players, but this potential three-and-D wing didn’t show that either part of that classification was NBA-ready yet.
He’s probably entering camp as the back-up shooting guard, and small forward has too many options to envision him playing there much. So with some offseason time to work on his shot and, hopefully, his handle, Ross likely came to Vegas looking to impress and let the team know he deserved more than DeMar DeRozan’s scraps.
Instead, with the exception of the first half of the July 18 game against Denver, he was painfully unaggressive. Against players he should be better than (and in most cases, more athletic than), Ross seemed content to float around on offense and wait for a mid range jumper to present itself. He averaged 12.6 points on 42% shooting, again struggling with the three-point shot (3-for-13). Perhaps most disappointing, he went 8-for-9 from the line in his first six minutes of said Denver game but took just nine free throw attempts in the rest of his 117 minutes combined.
He also turned the ball over 3.4 times a game and tended to play more of a free safety role on defense than locking anyone down. This makes the highlight reel and piles up the steals, perfect for getting noticed but not necessarily appropriate in the confines of a defensive scheme.
Last season, Ross was pretty mediocre in isolation (0.68 points per possession) and as a spot-up shooter (0.91), really only making hay in transition (1.35). With the expectation that said spot-up attempts would look better, the jumper lacked confidence. Some of that is the fact that he was keyed in on, fine, but then why the lack of aggression putting the ball on the floor. Ross just didn’t look like a guy who was out there to prove a point or send a message. He looked content to play second fiddle to a couple of teammates and a cast of also-rans, failing to recognize that he could have taken over at any time.
I warned before Summer League started that failure in Vegas was more worrisome than success was encouraging. Counterexamples have been brought to my attention and I even changed my tune on getting excited (Jonas!). But this looked bad. It really looked like a guy who is unsure of his own skill set and not ready to assert himself on an NBA floor. He also showed a lack of recognition, of his own game and the tournament environment. Once again:
5:46 v Denver: 1/1 FG, 8/9FT, 3 Rb, 2 TO
Other 117 minutes: 21/51 FG, 8/9 FT, 21 Rb, 14 TO
It’s disappointing. I like Ross and think he could eventually be that kind of three-and-D asset he was touted as. But in his current incarnation, it’s difficult to make a case for him getting minutes beyond whatever DeRozan can’t handle – DeRozan, by the way, has played the sixth most minutes in the NBA over the past three years. Hope you enjoy shooting drills, T-Flight.