Terrence Ross has not scored 31 points since signing his $31 million contract

In the Summer of 2012, the Denver Nuggets signed JaVale McGee to a four year, $44 million contract. It was, at the time (and also in hindsight), one of the ugliest things one could do with one’s currency. The Nuggets essentially paid McGee 11 m / year to play less than 20 minutes per game.

Contract grade: ugly.

Here’s something marginally better, but still ugly: This past July, the Pacers signed Monta Ellis to a four year, $44 million contract. It’s marginally better, because Monta Ellis is a proven NBA scorer who plays 30 + mpg and consistently gives you double-digit scoring outputs on a nightly basis. It’s ugly, because Indiana just committed $44 million to a 30-year-old player who’s not getting better.

Contract grade: ugly, but in-line with a league riddled with overpaid players whose two highest paid players are Kobe Bryant and Joe Johnson.

On their hands now, the Raptors have an unproven 24-year-old swing-man who comes off the bench, plays less than 17 mpg, scores less than 6 ppg, shoots 33% from the floor, and gets lost on defensive possessions. He’s set to make nearly $11 million starting next season – and he’s already mailed it in.

Contract grade: Borderline disastrous and untradeable.

We’re talking about Terrence Ross here – the Andrea Bargnani of the Masai Ujiri era.

It is indeed extremely difficult to justify the Terrence Ross contract. Ross is a relatively unproven player apart from having a 51-point scoring blitz against the Clippers last season (a performance that seems mythical and inexplicable now), winning the NBA slam dunk championship once, and sporadically showing that he can play defense and hit the three-bomb – both traits that he’s regressed dramatically in over the course of his four-year career. These are all traits that are hardly worthy of him being paid more than the likes of Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Cory Joseph, Marco Belinelli, or even Jeremy Lamb who’s shooting over 50% from the floor and scoring 12.8 ppg. Heck, for just 1 million (or so) more, you’re getting into Nikola Vucevic territory.

Terrence Ross, next season, will be making 1.5m less than Kyle Lowry – a potential starting all-star in the East.

Crunching numbers

*Note: We are not going to delve into the fact that Andre Drummond is a monster, and that with each passing double-double that he casually achieves, a Raptor fan dies a little inside.

In three games prior to his contract extension, Terrence Ross was averaging a respectable 12.3 ppg on 52% shooting (including 46.2% from beyond the arc). De facto, after one 21-point outburst against the Celtics in October, Tommy Heinsohn asked if T-Ross was Superman, and everyone was back on-board the Terry Ross Train – I totally stole this from Blake. The Terrence Ross hype was very real.

It wasn’t that long ago this euphoria over Terrence existed, which further proves the love-hate relationship everyone has with Terrence Ross. We all want to believe that he’s going to make it, because every now and then he teases us with a solid performance.

Below is his shot-chart from those three aforementioned games.

Shotchart_1449067713963

But we’re now four years in and these performances are rare, and basically everything that is worrying about Terrence Ross completely outweighs any optimism one has for him.

Since the contract extension, Ross has regressed in every category, despite playing the same amount of minutes. From November 3rd and on, Terrence Ross is actually averaging just 2.8 ppg on 22% shooting. He’s averaging more turnovers than he is assists.

In a hypothetical World where each basketball point equals 1 million dollars, Terrence Ross would still be in debt to the Toronto Raptors – one month after his new contract was signed.

Terrence Ross has scored just 25 points in his 9 games since he signed his new contract.

Ice cold T-Ross: 9/40 since signing his new contract.

On top of that, he’s just doing some incredibly bizarre things.

But despite his struggles, Ross has to play, because he is essentially the only player on the Raptors’ bench who can space the floor properly at the wing spot. For that reason, he will continue to play.

So for any of you on Twitter who have continually asked why Dwane Casey doesn’t essentially drop Ross for James Johnson, it’s because they have different roles on the team.

Having James Johnson on the court has its own challenges, and he’s for the most part more of a four-man in today’s NBA. His presence also suffocates the Raptors’ spacing on offense and he struggles with staying within defensive sets. It does however, have its perks (see: interior scoring, man-to-man defense).

With Ross, potentially a more natural experiment would be to cut his minutes in favour of Norman Powell. Powell also limits how well the Raptors can space the floor, but the kid is a solid mid-range shooter and a stud at getting in the paint and finishing in traffic. He can also find open cutters, so if he’s paired with the right players – probably some sort of combination of Patterson, Lowry, CoJo, Carroll, Scola – it’s an experiment that could pay off.

It’s an experiment that couldn’t be worse, anyway.The Raptors are now fully invested in Terrence Ross because they have to be, but they shouldn’t ignore the rise of young Powell, who could help this team’s struggles with scoring within the 2nd unit. But a separate – yet relevant – issue is that Casey’s philosophy for developing young players is slow and torturous from a viewer standpoint. Minutes don’t come easy for young players in Dwane ‘tough-love’ Casey’s brand of basketball.

It’s easy to chastise Ross’ new contract. It means that even if you don’t want him now, you have to showcase him in hopes of boosting his value to something more respectful than what it is now (it is zero. It is of zero value), because even James Dolan would hesitate to bite on this one. Showcasing has long been a problem in the NBA – unless you’re in a dedicated deep-diving tank – because it completely interferes with the basketball on the court.

Not to proclaim that this is something that’s happening now, but, to reiterate, Terrence Ross will play, and that’s the most simple way of putting it.

If Ross was signed to be a trade chip, then surely Masai didn’t factor in that Ross’ play was going to take a huge nose dive into NBA mediocrity (to be polite), and now – somehow – he has to boost this trade asset in anyway he can.

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