The 2016-2017 NBA season is only a few weeks away. I seems like it’s been an extremely long offseason but the new season is finally here. The Raptors are coming off the greatest playoff run in their history, and for the most part, they’re bringing back the same roster in hopes that continued player development and better health this year can push them over the final edge.
One player who got talked about a lot this offseason was Raptor wing Terrence Ross, and not for the right reasons. Ross’ name had been floated in a lot of trade talk, however substantiated, especially for Philadelphia 76ers centre Nerlens Noel. Nothing came of those talks, and Ross still remains a part of the roster. In late October of last year, the Raptors re-signed Ross to a 3yr/$31M deal, a very fair contract for his role on the team in the new NBA economy, and the extension also makes him a tradeable asset. This is year five for the 25-year-old Ross, and it might be his make or break season.
After the signing of DeMarre Carroll in last year’s offseason, Ross saw a move to the bench, only starting seven games despite Carroll being injured for the majority of the season. Over the course of the season, second-round pick Norman Powell stepped up, showed he was more polished offensively than some originally thought, and proved he could be a legitimate defender against multiple positions, diminishing Ross’ minutes even further.
In the two seasons where Ross was a primary starter, he averaged 26.1 minutes, which dropped by 2.2 minutes last year. He continued to produce the same numbers, especially once a bad slump to start the year subsisded. And that reason alone is what really frustrates fans: Ross’ problems since he was drafted haven’t changed in four years. His struggles on offense primarily lie within his poor ball handling ability, which inhibits him from driving to the basket (despite his athleticism), ultimately leading to an insanely low rate free throws attempted. It also makes his game fairly predictable as a bench shooter, though that doesn’t mean the shooting doesn’t have substantial value.
Ross’ game has become pretty one dimensional. The Raptors had a lack of 3-point shooting last season, and Ross was important to have for just that reason. On catch-and-shoot attempts over 10 feet, Ross shot an amazing 40.5%, and 41.1% on threes. Looking at the shot chart below, you can see a majority of his shots are coming from the wing. It’s a pretty predictable play for Ross, albeit efficient. He shoots a lot from that wing area by curling through screens or even occasionally running an iso play from that side.
Although his shooting is a valuable asset on the team, there’s just so much more to him athletically that is being boxed up by his lack of ball handling skills. And while having efficient catch-and-shoot players who can roll off screens for easy shots are important, they can only be used in a limited capacity when their defense is a liability and the rest of their offensive game is limited. Ross has shown flashes of greater skill both offensively and defensively, but the consistency has never been there, leading to his potentially diminished role on the depth chart. The games in which he does drive to the basket, he shows an impressive ability to finish at the rim (although he still shies away from contact), as he shot 67.1 percent on 70 attempts at the rim. Again, it’s the lack of consistency in that facet of his game that’s frustrating.
I truly believe a player isn’t who they are at 25, or when they’re still just entering their fifth year in the league, but with Ross there’s this weird feeling as though this might be it. His numbers don’t seem to move too far off of his previous year’s average. Last season, Ross averaged a little under 10ppg, on 8.6 shots, shooting 43% from the field and, far more notably, 38% from three, where more than half of all of his shots came from. He’s now shot 37.7% on 1,333 career triples, establishing himself as a top-20 shooter in the league. And those rates are almost identical to the previous two seasons, which causes a lot of Raptors to wonder, “Is Terrence Ross ever going to take the next step?”
It wouldn’t be surprising if this is peak Ross, and his numbers and role are as good as it gets. It also wouldn’t be surprising if over the next few years Ross was to figure out some of his flaws and seriously take the next step in his game, which would entail more reliable defense and more aggression attacking closeouts from the perimeter. It’s hard to predict, all we can do is hope a few things click for Ross and the full potential of his athleticism and shooting come together.
Until then, Powell may be on his heels, and Ross will be a favorite of Trade Machine users.
Follow – @RaptorsRepublic
Follow – @SpenredFollow @raptorsrepublic