High Hopes and Terrence Ross

Terrence Ross is getting a lot of ink and hopes are high. It’s better to temper those expectations and let nature run its course.

In the Quick Reaction for the Pacers game I jokingly wrote #LetRossInTheGymAndMakeHimShoot1000JumpersADay for Terrence Ross. It wasn’t so much an indictment on Ross’ poor shooting night, but a reality check that called for the tempering of expectations regarding the 22-year old. Some of the benchmarks set for him have undoubtedly come from Bryan Colangelo labeling Ross as untouchable in trade negotiations, which was a little surprising given how little he had shown and how much Ed Davis had shown of late. All the key guys drafted in or around him (Davis, MKG, Beal, Waiters, Lillard, Barnes, Drummond) have arguably had better seasons than Ross, yet that hasn’t stopped us from already slotting Ross as a key cog in the ever-changing nucleus of the Raptors. There’s no problem having him enter the revolving door that guards the nuclei, as long as we remain level-headed about him.

Despite struggling mightily with his shot early in the season, he’s managed to hold our attention through his aerial work and some streaky performances where his pretty shot was falling. The offensive quickness that’s on display has also been something of a surprise, I particularly like this play against Indiana. For every bit of that, though, there’s also been cases of this and this. Say what you will, throughout his ups-and-downs he’s always dealt with things like this. So far it’s been a mixed bag as expected from a rookie going against bigger, stronger, and more experienced guys, but enough to get us excited about the possibilities.

His short-term fit is very similar to Mo Pete in this first couple of years where there aren’t going to be many plays called for him, and he’s forced to get his by scrambling around and hitting his open jumpers. In the long-term, and only if he’s able to fulfill his short-term duties, he could have the opportunity to make a case as a legit starting two. Those days could be some time away since he’s now got DeRozan and Gay ahead of him at the two and three, respectively. What Gay’s acquisition has done has bought Ross some time to develop while being in a reserve role with less pressure. Unlike DeRozan, who was penciled in as a starter early in his career and measured accordingly, Ross will have more time and patience afforded to him, with the caveat that he’s now expected to deliver some measure of production for a big-payroll team hunting for the playoffs. But hey, he’s got the confidence of the GM, and that’s the main thing that should net him some time (just like it did for Bargnani).

I don’t have much doubt that his shot will tighten up and he’s going to drop a higher percentage as he becomes part of the regular rotation as Anderson, hopefully, sees less time. He’s only at 33% from the field right now, but what’s encouraging is that his mid-range game is functioning as he’s shooting 47% from the 10-15 point range. Much like DeRozan, that will have to be Ross’ bread-and-butter if he’s striving to be more than just a bench specialist. It’s the three-point threat that, if he becomes consistent, can separate him from the crowd. At the end of the day a bench SG becomes a starting SG if he’s able to create his own shot, and for Ross that shot will either come from using his quickness to pull-up from mid-range or by getting to the rim using his above-average quickness and significantly above-average explosiveness (both of which he’s better at than DeRozan). Where this is leading is that if you’re a believer that DeRozan can become a legitimate scoring threat from the two, you better believe that Ross can too, because there isn’t that much of a delta (besides the 21 lb weight difference – DeRozan is 216, Ross is 195).

If being a go-to scoring guard isn’t in his destiny, the natural view to hold given his athleticism, potential defensive ability, and three-point shooting is someone in the mold of Jason Richardson, Raja Bell, Tony Allen, or Thabo Sefolosha, or if you go further back, Doug Christie, Nick Anderson and Eddie Jones. The resourcefulness of such a player is well-documented in today’s NBA even though they aren’t exactly star-caliber, and this is the more likely scenario for Ross because it involves him improving on his current strengths rather than developing new tools like face-up moves, a post-game, and shot-making against contests. The high-end of a player like Ross might even be Manu Ginobili. If you’re wondering, I’m getting these names by looking at players with generally high 3FGA and steals.

If the Raptors get lucky they’ll have a natural successor or even usurper to DeRozan. A word of caution needs to be heeded as players like Ross are being produced at a solid churn by the NCAA-factory, just look at the players cited earlier, making it imperative that he show something which keeps the Raptors engaged. What also helps him is that the Raptors won’t likely have a pick in this year’s draft, meaning that the chance of another young swingman coming in and laying challenge is unlikely. This gives Ross more breathing room in terms of competition.

Ross will get his chance in Toronto, after all, many a lesser player have gotten theirs here as well. The question is whether his fate will be of the extreme nature such as Vince Carter’s or Chris Jefferies’, or just a plain old Mo Pete which isn’t too bad. From a draft pick point of view, he was selected #8 and the two guys the Raptors passed up on to get him were Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb. Drummond’s shown some real quality and Lamb is struggling to get playing time in OKC, so the retrospective Hoffa/Iguodala risk factor is clearly in the form of Drummond.

Too early to worry about that though, the immediate thing to do for the Raptors is to get him some playing time even if it happens to be undeserved, just so he gets into a rhythm. I expect veterans to stay ice cold for days on end and come in and drill threes, not so much rookies, so he needs to be cut some slack there. I know Casey doesn’t like that and gives run to guys that produce, but sense and sensibility must prevail over Casey’s more baser instincts.

Related: Terrence Ross selected for dunk contest
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