The Toronto Raptors will have an interesting situation on their hands if Terrence Ross is able to take that next step as a player in his sophomore season.
Last year’s slam dunk champion quickly made a name for himself as one of the best in-game dunkers in the league. However, as he enters his second year, he’ll want to prove he’s more than just an impressive highlight reel.
Ross put up respectable numbers as a rookie, recording averages of 6.4 points, two rebounds and 0.7 assists in 73 games played. His best month of the season came in January, when he finished the month with averages of 7.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.8 steals. The month was highlighted by his career-high scoring night of 26 points to go along with five rebounds, two assists and two steals on Jan. 2 against the Portland Trailblazers.
The 6-foot-6 guard proved he can score in the league, but what prevented him from seeing more court action was his defense. Ross is a strong athlete, but the NBA game appeared to be too quick, and opponents seemed to be too strong for Ross to have consistent success containing the opposition. Known for his defense in college, it wouldn’t be surprising if, after a summer in the gym, Ross enters the new season looking like a completely different player on the defensive end. Every rookie struggles on defense in their first season, and considering Ross received limited playing time, he was only going to improve so much in his first year.
The other issue that plagued Ross as a rookie was the addition of Rudy Gay to the roster. After three months of the season, Ross was finally finding comfort with his spot in the rotation. When Gay was traded to Toronto at the end of January, Ross’ playing time dropped by nearly 10 minutes during Gay’s first month with the team. Once it was obvious the Raptors weren’t going to make the playoffs, Ross saw his playing time increase, but the inconsistent play time and confusion with his spot in the rotation put the rookie in a tough spot to succeed.
Now that coach Dwane Casey has a better idea of his roster, Ross’ playing time should be more consistent in his sophomore season. Casey will be depending on Ross to lead the team’s second unit offensively, and given how strong the sophomore has looked in preseason, it’s a role he appears prepared for.
With Ross’ three-point shooting ability and his proven leaping ability, he could turn into a dangerous offensive weapon for the Raptors. He showed last year that he’s capable of getting hot from downtown on any given night, which will provide matchup problems for the opposition. If opponents try to run him off the three-point line, Ross will quickly drive past them for a dunk. If opponents fear his dunking ability and give him room on the perimeter to prevent the drive, Ross will no doubt burn them with a three-pointer.
As long as he’s able to hold his own defensively, Ross could quickly find himself being Toronto’s sixth-man. As he grows more comfortable and proves he can be consistent on both ends of the floor, Ross might threaten DeMar DeRozan’s starting spot at shooting guard. He has a long way to go before he gets to that point, but the knock on the Gay-DeRozan tandem is that neither are capable of hitting a three-pointer with consistency. If Ross can prove he’s a consistent shooter, he might prove to be the better fit to play alongside Gay in the starting-five. He’s already shown he’s just as athletic, if not more so, than DeRozan, and many already believe Ross is a better fit long-term for the franchise.
Ross has shown that he has the potential to be a talented scorer in the NBA. Once he proves he can be consistent defensively, the Raptors will have interesting decisions to make when it comes to the future of their starting shooting-guard position.