As Raptor fans heard David Stern make this announcement on draft night nearly two years ago, many of them were thinking one thing, who? Ross wasn’t exactly a household name coming out of the University of Washington (UW). But as fans began to research the numbers (16.4 PPG, 45.7 percent FG, 37.1 3PT during his last season at UW), and the athletic highlight reels of Ross, many started to warm to the idea of Ross being in the red and black.
Ross is now in his second season with the Raptors. Without question, Ross’ learning curve under Dwane Casey has been slow as he has consistently struggled to maintain minutes throughout his first seasons. Through 14 games so far this season, Ross is averaging 6.9PPG and 2.5RPG while shooting 45.6 percent FG and 37.5 percent three point shooting, respectively. Ross is achieving those numbers in just 19.1 minutes per game, as he is consistently playing behind both Demar Derozan and Rudy Gay, while also battling Landry Fields and Steve Novak for time off the bench.
There definitely isn’t anything wrong with healthy, internal competition for playing time. Casey is in the right in this instance. Casey shouldn’t just hand over 30+ minutes to T-Ross, because Ross was the eighth overall selection in the draft and was meant to be one of building blocks moving forward. Ross should have to earn his minutes. But that’s the issue, Ross should have already earned his minutes by now.
Raptor fans have seen Ross’ potential, but only in brief glimpses through his first two seasons in the league. The freaky athleticism, the smooth stroke, the lock-down defensive ability — it’s all there, but only in small spurts as of right now. It must be concerning for Raptor fans that Ross has seen minimal statistical improvements and only earned himself 2.1 extra minutes this season from his rookie year. There’s no two ways around it, Ross should have a significantly increased role for the team this season. Regardless of whether the Raptors decide to make a push for the playoffs or eventually tank the season, Ross should be playing more minutes and producing more. He should be progressing more than he is right now.
The Raptors have absolutely next to no offensive production coming from their bench wing players, but Ross should be able to fill that void. Ross’ biggest competition for the sixth man spot would be Landry Fields. Fields is averaging 3.8PPG in 15.2MPG and has seen his production significantly decrease since his rookie season with the New York Knicks. Does anything else really need to be said? This shouldn’t be a competition for Ross. Instead, Ross is only earning himself four more minutes than Fields. Steve Novak, another bench wing player, is currently mired in a personally historic shooting slump, hoisting three pointers at 28.6 percent, easily the lowest of his nine year career. Ross doesn’t even have to worry about Austin Daye and Julyan Stone, who barely touch the court to begin with, averaging 3MPG and 5.1MPG, respectively. Even backup point guards D.J Augustin and Dwight Buycks only average 8.2MPG and 10.8 MPG, so they can’t be eating up Ross’ minutes.
The opportunities and minutes are there for the taking. Sure, there will always be Derozan and Gay who will play a lot of minutes, but the Raptors still desperately need a third offensive option to help take the pressure off these two. In becoming that third option, Ross will help spread and space the floor, in turn, helping to alleviate the Raptors’ offensive woes. Ross’ stalled development doesn’t fall on Casey, it falls on Ross. Raptor nation needs T-Ross to start realizing the player he can become for his sake, as well as the Raptors. Raptor nation needs T-Ross to step up.