During the course of the 82 game regular season, it’s normal for any team to experiment with various starting lineups, move players in and out of the rotation, and give the younger guys a chance to prove themselves, especially if there’s been any personnel changes.
For the Toronto Raptors, starting second-year, swingman Terrence Ross was an obvious priority heading into the season in order to allow the youngster time to develop. But with just 13 games remaining and both the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls breathing down Toronto’s neck, the time has come to move Ross to the bench in favor of the more experienced Grevis Vasquez.
In Friday night’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder for example, Ross looked lost at times before leaving in the third quarter with what has been labelled as a hip contusion. While the injury isn’t thought to be serious, Ross finished with just two points, three rebounds, and a pair of steals on a night when the former Washington Husky also shot 1-9 from the floor in 22 minutes.
By comparison, Vasquez used his 31 minutes of playing time to score 21 points, grab five rebounds, and dish out four assists while shooting 3-5 from long-range and 9-11 from the field.
More importantly, during the eight-game stretch that concluded after Sunday’s visit from the Hawks in which the Raptors faced six playoff-bound opponents, Vasquez has provided Toronto with another ball handler in crunch time that’s capable of doing much more than what appears on the stat sheet.
While there have been nights that both Ross and Vasquez would rather forget, the intangibles that the Venezuelan brings to the table drastically outweigh those of Toronto’s other, high-flying guard.
Earlier in the week when the Raptors were in desperate need of a victory against the New Orleans Pelicans for example, it was the presence of Vasquez late in the game that lifted Toronto to victory, and his 14-point output doesn’t even begin to tell the entire story.
Fortunately for the Raptors, one of Vasquez’ most valuable assets is his 6-foot-6, 211-pound frame that continuously causes matchup problems for opponents, and more importantly, would allow the former ACC-standout to start at shooting guard without giving up much size to whoever he’s covering.
The potential in Ross to be an elite-level contributor is undeniable, but much like the time it took DeMar DeRozan to transform into the well-rounded, scoring threat we see today, the Raptors’ young talent will also need time to develop, and now is not that time.
On the heels of another win laced with self-imposed errors, what Toronto needs most right now is the often steady hand of Vasquez to help steer the ship when it counts the most. Clearly, DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will continue to lead the Raptors offensively, and on some nights, Ross will be an important part of that.
But for now, sliding Vasquez into the two spot beside Lowry while DeRozan moves freely within the offense will help to limit these self-inflicted mistakes. In the meantime, Ross can add a valuable scoring threat to the bench and rejoin the starting five when he becomes the well-rounded guard that Toronto hoped for when he was initially drafted.