While the Toronto Raptors reached the postseason with an inexperienced roster consisting mainly of newcomers to the NBA‘s second season, super sophomores Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas have had very different playoff debuts thus far.
With Sunday’s series-tying win over the Brooklyn Nets in which Valanciunas was once again critical for the Raptors, contributing 15 points and 14 rebounds, the Lithuanian big man became the first player since 1985 to total a combined 30 points and 30 boards in his first two playoff appearances.
But for Ross, the postseason has brought nothing more than a continuation of the late-season offensive struggles that plagued him, and going forward, the Raptors can’t afford to get so little offensively from their starting two-guard. Prior to the playoffs, Valanciunas was simply irreplaceable down the stretch despite a highly publicized encounter with law enforcement that resulted in a DUI charge; and since the start of the postseason, he’s only gotten better.
Fresh off of a breakout campaign which featured averages of 11.3 PPG and 8.8 RPG, the budding superstar has been one of the league’s best in the blocks with 16.8 PPG and 11.0 RPG in the month of April, and flourished in his role as the most important piece of Toronto’s low-post puzzle.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ross wrapped up his second year in the league with less than 10 points in four of the last six games. And outside of his 24-point performance in Toronto’s win on April 4, the former first-round draft pick only surpassed the 20-point plateau once in his final 11 regular season appearances.
In his playoff debut, Ross finished with just three points on 1-of-4 shooting from the field, three rebounds, a steal and four personal fouls in 16 minutes of action. Sunday’s win wasn’t any more promising for the dunk artist, who turned in only two points, a rebound and an assist in 25 minutes.
Now a combined 2-of-12 from the floor, Ross will likely see another dip in playing time following Sunday’s disappearing act; and considering the recent play of the leading Raptors reserves, qualified candidates to replace the struggling guard in the starting lineup currently exist. Averaging 13.5 PPG, 8.0 APG, and 3.5 RPG in the series, 6-foot-6 Greivis Vasquez offers the size required to cover most guards without giving up too much, and aside from being a tremendous ball handler, he has become an emotional leader that Toronto needs on the floor.
As unlikely as it may seem for now, pulling Ross from the starting lineup in favor of Vasquez may be a decision that the Raptors will be forced to make if the second-year guard doesn’t turn things around soon.