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Ed’s Note: This is a guest post by William Lou.

Bruce Bowen kicked down the door; the NBA is now awash with 3-and-D wings. The Spurs have one in Danny Green. The Thunder have one in Thabo Sefolosha. The Bulls have one in Jimmy Butler. The Heat have one in Shane Battier. They’re seemingly ubiquitous, especially amongst winning franchises.

 General managers are scrounging for three-and-defense wings because they are very useful. On offense, the ability to accurately knock down three-pointers stretches out the defense and creates more room for slashers and post-players. On defense, having a 3/D wing (a Bowen, from now on) is very useful, especially if he’s paired with a high usage wing player. The Bowen can cover the main wing-threat and allow the offensive wing to conserve his energy on defense.
Currently, the Raptors don’t have a capable Bowen (Fields could be one if his surgery has fixed his shot). Their starting line-up desperately needs one; the combination of Demar Derozan and Rudy Gay are a spacing nightmare, especially when paired with Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. Ideally, either DD or Gay could be replaced by a Bowen.
This begs the question; can Terrance Ross become Toronto’s Bowen?
Let’s start with macro; Ross shot 33% from three-point range last season (65/196 per B-R), which is 3% below league average for guard/forwards. That’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not very good. Guys like Sefolosha, Green and Battier all shot better than 40% on threes last season [1]. Certainly, Ross has some work to do here.
A look at Ross’s shot chart reveals that he was far more successful from the left side of the floor, than from the right when it came to three’s (small sample size alert; per NBA stats):
Despite this discrepancy, Ross took more shots from the right side. Perhaps NBA defenses realized this and just forced him to certain spots, but it’s difficult to direct the location of spot-ups; that’s mostly dictated by the perogative of the offensive player. Nevertheless, if these percentages are significant (ie: that these are indicative of Ross’s skills), his three-point shooting can simply be improved by better shot-selection.
With the help of synergy sports, we can see a play-by-play breakdown of his 196 three pointers last season. First off, his proportion of attempts were results of the following play types:
This corroborates much of what we already know; the vast majority of Ross’s shots came from spot-ups. Unfortunately, he didn’t shoot very well on spot-ups (nor in any other situation, really):
Overall, he failed to crack 40% shooting on any play (he was 2/5 on off-screens). That’s pretty pathetic. He needs to bump up these percentages, especially on spot-ups. Certainly, he’s young, and he can improve his shooting with more practice. However, I suspect that his poor shooting might be a result of poor shooting form.
This is where I’m out of my element; I’m not expert on the technicalities of basketball. I have an approximate idea of ideal basketball shooting forms (mostly honed from watching Nash and Allen), but I can’t fully tell good form apart from bad (unless it’s a Shawn Marion bad).
However, it looks to me that Ross is too unbalanced when he’s shooting, and his form looks a bit wonky. He seems to be moving a lot (and too much in my opinion), and he rarely goes straight-up, and straight-down as he’s supposed to. Watch the video below and tell me what you think in the comments.
Anyway, Ross doesn’t quite have the “3” in “3-and-D” down quite yet. However, he did shoot considerably better from the left side of the floor than the right, so better shot selection could greatly improve his effectiveness. Also, corrections to his shooting form could also improve his shot.
Once again, let’s toss out the macro first; his defensive rating of 109 was below average and he rebounded/stole/blocked at a league average rate for his position.
However, the synergy data disagrees with the boxscore; according to synergy stats, Ross allowed 0.80 points per play (ppp) on defense, which ranked 61st overall in the NBA (85th percentile). This discrepancy piqued my interests, and prompted me to dive into the video to explain the discrepancy.
First off, the distribution of his defensive possessions looked like the following:
Ross actually excelled at his three most commonly faced defensive possessions (isolation/PR ball handler/spot-ups), ranking 158th, 26th and 53rd in the NBA respectively. However, the video suggests that much of this was a result of luck and circumstance (noise), rather than an accurate reflection of skill (signal).
The video shows that Ross relied very heavily on his athleticism on defense, rather than good positioning and movement.  This isn’t necessarily an indictment against Ross; coach Dwane Casey recently dubbed him the most athletic player in the league. It certainly allows him to make up for mistakes. Consider the following plays:

If you watched closely, you definitely would have noticed that his positioning and technical play wasn’t exactly sound. Ross often committed a litany of poor mistakes; not getting a hand up, not closing out, sagging off too much, and ball-watching.
In particular, his close-outs on spot-ups were particularly awful. Yes, he only allowed 0.84 PPP on spot ups (good for 53rd in the NBA), but his opposition mainly consisted of bench players chucking during blowouts. Even after factoring in his elite athleticism, his positioning on close-outs is so bad that it’ll definitely catch up to him over time.

His wonky techniques won’t play against stiffer competition. Ross sets his feet, and leaps towards the shooter. Given that he’s often so far away from his man, he is simultaneously unable to block the shot, while also not deterring the shot (ie: Shane Battier hand in the face). He needs to focus more on defense and work harder to stick closer to his man.
As of right now, Terrence Ross is as much Bruce Bowen as…well, as much as I am Zach Lowe. Reality is pretty sad.
Ross is a below-average three-point shooter, as he shoots below 40% across all play types. My thinking is that if he corrects his form and puts in the work, he could raise the 3FG% over 38% (then again, Demar…nevermind).
Ross excelled on defense. His boxscore numbers were average, but his synergy stats numbers were excellent. However, the video evidence reveals that his success was in large part due to his tremendous athleticism, and that his technical skills were actually very poor. If he is able to shore up his positioning and show more focus, he has the potential to be a consistently excellent defensive stopper.

And hey, he’s only 21. He’s still got a long way ahead of him. With his tremendous athleticism, I think we should give him a chance to develop into the Raptors’ Bowen.

[1] It should be noted that Green, Sefolosha and Battier play in offensive schemes that produce a lot of wide-open threes, which may be inflating the accuracy of their three-point shooting. Nevertheless, ~10% is a big difference.
Thanks to basketball reference, NBA stats, the NBA geek and synergy stats for the data used in this post. The video was curtsey of synergy stats. 

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  • Darien

    Could Drummond have been our Shaq?

    • DDayLewis

      Wait, is this just wondering aloud, or a suggestion for a post?

      If it’s the former, then probably not. Shaq was a generational talent. Look up his rookie numbers; the crazy per 36 numbers that Drummond posted were Shaq’s ACTUAL numbers, and that’s just nuts.

  • Nilanka15

    One thing of note is that Battier, Bowen, Thabo, etc., aren’t superior athletes. They excel defensively because of their high IQ, positioning and footwork.

    If the Raptors coaching staff intend to mold Ross into this form, they would essentially be deeming Ross’ athletic prowess as unnecessary to succeed in the NBA.

    To me, it seems like a waste of natural ability to force Ross into a “3 and D” role. I think the potential to turn him into a Jason Richardson type is still very much alive.

    • SR

      Agreed – Ross should be aiming to improve his shooting and his D (along with every other sophomore in the league), but it’s bonkers to basically write off his potential after one season to that of a role player who “only” plays 3 and D. As valuable as Battier, Thabo, and Bowen are – those guys play their roles because they’re good at it but on the flip-side they were reduced to “3 and D” because they really can’t do anything else. Ross is capable of much more and should be aiming to be a complete basketball player.

      Also, 3 point shooting is a wonky thing. Battier shot 33% a year ago and 43% last year, both years with the Heat. Bowen has also shot that low for entire seasons, and Sefolosha has shot as low as 24%. It’s still way too early to jump to conclusions on Ross. I’d give him a couple more seasons before saying anything definitive.

      *Was the video really the result of a “curtsey” of Synergy Stats? Because that would be a little weird.

      • mountio

        You and Nilanka are bang on. Ill reiterate and add a few things
        – One should not be striving to be a “3 and D” guy. This is a classification that has come up because they are a great compliment to a high usage wing player (as was mentioned in the article). They are clearly a role player and as a result, are usually cheap. Sooo .. great to have as part of a team, yes, but this is the role that guys like Alan Anderson, Steve Novak, Matt Bonner types should strive for (I realize some are more 4s .. but you get the point). A guy with Ross athleticism and ability to attack the rim should not.
        – As for Ross’ stats. Its interesting that you broke out the video on D .. I would like to see some video for his shots. To be his biggest problem was jacking up off balance, bad shots (often fade away 3s). I would be intersted (not sure if this stat exists) how he shoots on wide open threes vs a Battier / Green type who shoots the vast majority of their shots wide open
        – As for stroke .. I dont claim to be a shot doctor either, but if you cant look at Ross’ shot and see that he has a better stroke than DD or Fields .. I have to question what you are watching. DD might marginally improve his shot through hard work .. but its ugly as shit
        – Overall, do I agree that he should focus on D and 3 piont shooting? Absolutely, YES. But, he also is our best finisher at the rim, particularly in transition – so he should focus on that also.
        – Kahwi Leonard is a great role model, but I would note that its great to get confidence and develop a 3 pt shot when you only shoot wide open shots for your first two years in the league. It would be awesome to start out with the spurs .. but I dont think Ross will have that luxury, so he needs to do the best with a situation where he is unlikely to get many wide open shots.

      • DDayLewis

        spelling error; should have been “courtesy”.

        I think Battier’s shooting is largely contextual; he is the beneficiary of a TONNE of open shots in MIA’s offense. That probably explains much of it

    • bigweeze

      It’s not a waste. Guys like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Iman Shumpert are extremely valuable. These are guys who are already some of the top wing role players at 23 years of age, with the potential to become well-rounded all-star level players. If they weren’t on paltry rookie deals, they would already be $5-10m players.

      Shooting 3s and giving consistent defensive effort are important skills. Between Lebron and Durant, it’s debatable who’s better offensively, but there is a clear heirarchy in the MVP rankings because of Lebron’s defensive impact.

      It’s also a little bit of risk management. If you cultivate a player as a “star”, then often secondary skills like spot-up shooting and defense take a backseat to developing primary offensive skills. Derozan’s inability to impact the game is limited because he’s been cultivated to be a star/scorer, but hasn’t quite reached the expectation. Lebron is one of the exceptions having rounded out his defense later, while his teammate Wade is a perfect example of the typical development path. There is no good reason that guys like Allen, Battier and Miller should have been more impactful in the playoffs for long stretches than the 3rd greatest SG of all-time.

      • Nilanka15

        I don’t disagree with that you said, but I interpret “3 and D” to loosely mean stand in the corner and wait for a kickout (on offense), while locking down the opposing team’s primary wing scorer (on defense).

        My point was speaking mainly from an offensive perspective. Ross has too much natural athletic ability to be parked in the corner waving his hands.

        • bigweeze

          The best non-close shot on the court is the corner 3.

          His skills don’t afford him the latitude to massage the ball on the perimeter and the Raptors need less guys doing that.

          It’s not a death sentence playing from the corner. Kawhi’s primary role begins in the corner, where he gets ample opportunities to be involved:
          – shooting
          – attacking the basket on wild closeouts
          – cut to the rim
          – moving off-ball during the action to spot up elsewhere (opposite corner, higher up the 3 pt line)
          – crashing the boards

          It’s not a simple role that involves merely waiting for the ball and then shooting/not shooting. Only in a simple, predictable offense.

          • Nilanka15

            Would you agree that Bowen’s/Battier’s offensive responsibilities were/are significantly less than a player like Leonard?

            • SR

              I agree.

              Leonard was only 21 last year. He’s been a perimeter role player so far because he has 3 HoF teammates, his D has always been very good, and he dramatically improved his 3-pt shot after college. BUT – he’s still clearly evolving as a player. The Spurs are increasingly asking him to do more, and his role will definitely expand next year based on his playoff performance and the need for Pops to limit old man Manu’s playing time again.

              Leonard has 3’s and D in his game, but he’s already much more than that and his skills are developing so quickly. His role is/will not be as limited as Battier/Bowen.

            • bigweeze

              Limited players can thrive in a role with a simple set of responsiblities, that is why these “roles” have been carved out. But more capable players can play the role and also expand their responsibilities.

              I think you are taking the idea of being a “Bruce Bowen” too literally.

              It makes sense for him to be a “Bruce Bowen” because:
              – the Raptors need someone to fill those holes (Gay/Derozan are more focused on scoring)
              – people think Ross could excel better than others on the roster given those responsibilities
              – a focused role may be best for his initial development as he hasn’t yet managed define his own path

    • ItsAboutFun

      Yeah, way too early to pigeonhole Ross into just such a role player, but I guess many head down that path because those are two of the key things he was supposed to have all the basic skills for.

      On a side note, Sefolosha is a prime example of a guy not being a “he is what he is” after 4 years in the league. For his first 5 years, he was a “D” without the “3”. His combined 3P% for his first 5 years was 30%, yet his last 2 years combined, it’s 42%

      • Nilanka15

        So you’re telling me there’s still hope for DeRozan yet. 😉

        • ItsAboutFun

          lol,,,, I still have hope anyway. What can i say? The kid’s got great character and I like him. I also think his confidence (no small thing when shooting) may be on the rise with the different team (Jonas, Rudy) around him. Hey, I’m an old school “new season, new hope” flavoured ol’ grump.

        • What the

          “he is a legit double team threat …” who said these words ?

  • Andrey

    Masai said in interview that they’re gonna make Ross attend that Grgurich’s camp (which is apparently really good) Hopefully it’ll work for him.

  • DryDry

    Yeah, we want him to play defense like one of the dirtiest asshole players the league has ever seen.

    You forget him undercutting Carter multiple times? Youtube is overflowing with footage of him planting his foot in the space right under the shooter that THE SHOOTER OWNS.

    Fuck Bruce Bowen, the worst possible example of a good 3 and D wing.

    • DryDry


      Sorry about that.

      Can I call him a Bowenhole?

      • DDayLewis

        That’s not the point of the article, but I can definitely see why people hate Bruce Bowen. Then again, he was a part of many great Spurs teams. Love him or hate him, he was a very useful player on multiple championship rosters.

        Of course, his use largely came from being super dirty

  • SR

    William – I’m enjoying the break downs of where Raptors team/player offense is coming from. Keep it up!

    • DDayLewis

      Thanks! I really appreciate it. Big props go out to Blake and Zarar for accepting and editing my submissions. I hope to improve to the point where I can become a regular here on RR.

      • mountio

        You are doing a great job – props for taking the time to put these things together. As I noted below and in some of Tim’s articles .. I think the one flaw with these advanced stats reviews that focus on efficiency and shooting percentages is that its tough to compare guys who play in systems that get wide open shots vs guys that are asked to either be the primary scorer (RG/DD) or even if they are a secondary scorer, its not like they get many open looks (TR).
        Having said that, you acknowledge this in your piece and I think your stuff is very thoughtful.

        • DDayLewis

          Thank you. I agree that shooting percentage is highly contextual. It has a lot to do with how defenses play you, your role in the offense, when you take these shots (ie: early/late shot clock), where you shoot from, etc etc. Too often we attribute the entirety of a player’s shooting percentage to his ability. That’s too narrow-sighted.

  • Dr.Scooby

    Are you saying if Ross raised his 3fg% from 33% to 37% he would go from below average 3pt shooter to an above average shooter…wow stats are friggin’ brutal in our player evaluations

    • DDayLewis

      I’m not sure what you mean by “stats are friggin brutal in our player evaluations”

  • DDayLewis

    Thanks so much for reading guys. I’m loving the feedback and the discussion.

  • A Raps Fan

    League consensus is that Ross actually has very solid mechanics; his shooting form has never been questioned. That being said, I think you’re onto something with your point re: shot selection, as I think that’s the key to him shooting better %’s.

  • Ian Reynolds

    A huge reason Terrence will need to improve upon his lazy closeouts – as guys around the league learn he’s not great at them, they’ll be able to attack the hell out of him when they receive ball reversals, which could lead to a lot of scrambling, putting a ton of pressure on Amir and JV.

    Ross still has the tools to succeed in the league. He has arguably a better skill set than any of the wings on the team, he’s just not great at using a single one of them yet.

    • DDayLewis

      That’s true. Ross definitely has the tools. It’s amazing that he managed to be so successful on defense (according to Synergy Sports), while being so technically flawed. It’s really a huge credit to his athleticism.

  • wonk wonk wonk

    Nice analysis. A suggestion: changing out of the default excel colour and presentation scheme will make your graphs look more professional.

    • DDayLewis

      Noted. I’m putting these charts with google docs right now, which isn’t ideal. I heard tableau is pretty good; should I give that a try?

  • Aryan S

    You’re comparing Ross to players who have all been in the league for at least 4 years. Ross is coming off his ROOKIE season. This article is way too harsh on my opinion, as the expectations for Ross are set way too high, expecting him to be a lock-down defender and automatic 3-point shooter in just his 1st year. He has and needs time to develop, as do all Rookies.

    • DDayLewis

      Why is this harsh? I’m pointing out guys like Leonard, Sefolosha and Battier as the golden standard. I didn’t say that Ross is a disappointment, nor did I write him off in any way. I’m pointing out where he needs to improve to reach their level.

  • RaptorsFan

    Which pixel is ross?

    • DDayLewis

      Lol screen capture freeware is pretty crappy. I’m open to suggestions. I’m currently putting these together with BB Flashback 3. Does anyone know a better one?

  • sam

    Don’t talk about proper shooting form when you don’t know what the fuck it is

    • DDayLewis

      I did say “tell me what you think in the comments”. I guess this is what you think of what I think of Ross’s form. Thanks for the input. You really helped enlighten the RR community.

  • oh please

    Please if you are going to use big words like PREROGATIVE learn how to spell it. Come on!!

    • William writes an in depth, well researched article, and the one thing you feel the need to comment on is what is most likely a simple typo.

      And by the way, your first sentence isn’t grammatically correct. If you’re going to correct someone’s spelling, you might want to make sure you aren’t leaving yourself open for criticism, as well.

      • oh please

        You would think that a well researched article would have been corrected with spell checker. The article was exceptional, that is not my beef. Believe me this is not a typing error!

        • You would think someone pointing out a spelling mistake would use something even close to correct grammar when doing so. And be more polite about it. You struck out in both instances.

          And considering all he did was leave out an ‘r’, I’m not sure how you can be so sure of yourself. Either way, you probably would have gotten a lot better reaction if you simply and politely pointed out the spelling mistake instead of trying to be snarky.

    • DDayLewis

      Whoops, sorry. Thanks for pointing it out. I’ll be more mindful of spelling in the future.

      • oh please

        Sorry, didn’t mean to be snarky. I know that a lot of kids will be reading your articles and you can help them by correct spelling. I think that they will look up to you. Your article was really very well written and a lot of research went into the text. Sorry, really didn’t mean for this to go in this direction.

        • DDayLewis

          It’s fine, don’t worry. Thanks for reading.

  • Jeremy H

    Watching some workouts and a bit of game film, and I am no expert but I do have a fair amount of coaching experience, Ross’ feet seem to be his biggest issue. He points his toes dramatically to the left and can’t seem to shoot without adjusting them as he catches, or before he releases (steps into too many shots). His landing point is pretty far from where he tends to jump from on his spot ups. Overall he has a fairly slow release as well, and upon watching some slowed down footage it’s apparent that he has a very inconsistent release angle, resulting in a lot of flat and rainbow-ed shots. His mechanics aren’t necessarily bad, but he does have a fair amount of issues and inconsistencies. When watching a shooter it’s apparent that everyone is different, and Ross could be successful with (almost) his current mechanics, but he needs to be more consistent with it.