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With the dog days of summer bringing little to no Raptors news in August, I was considering writing a post on Jonas Valanciunas’ appearance on an SB Nation projection of the top 100 players in 2017. Valanciunas was projected as the no. 18 player on that list, and it got me thinking about how possible it is that JV could be the best player on a legitimate contending team in his prime.

Thankfully, Dwane Casey made some interesting comments about another Raptors sophomore recently, and so we’ll save that proposed post, comprised of complete conjecture, for another day.

The other Raptors sophomore I’m referring to is Terrence Ross, and here’s what Dwane Casey had to say about him in an interview with Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

“He probably has the most upside of all our guys from a potential standpoint.

The talent is there. There is not a better athlete in the NBA than Terrence Ross. But just, bringing it on a consistent basis is his own personal challenge. We pushed him as a coaching staff and work with him till the cows come home, but until he makes up his mind mentally that he is going to exert that same athleticism and effort on both ends of the floor, that’s when he will make the next step.”

Casey added that Ross has been working on his shooting, ball handling and pick-and-roll defence this summer, and Deveney writes that “Casey called Ross one of the most talented players he has ever coached.”

I don’t know if I believe that Casey actually believes Ross has more upside than Valanciunas (it could be as much a motivating tactic as it is an honest opinion), but any way you look at it, Casey has some extraordinary praise for Ross’ natural talents while also appearing to express some concern over Ross’ consistency when it comes to the 22-year-old’s effort level.

When you consider that we can usually get a pretty good read on a shooting guard’s ability within his first three NBA seasons or so, Ross’ rookie averages of 6.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in 17 minutes per game and his ugly PER of just 10.48 are certainly concerning. But I’m nowhere near ready to give up on the guy.

When you watch freak athletes like DeMar DeRozan struggle in the NBA, the one thing that always comes to mind is to envision what it would be like if a player with DeRozan’s athleticism also came into the Association with sound basketball fundamentals. That combination should have been more visible in Ross last season – as I mentioned tens of times last year, Ross entered the NBA with better shooting mechanics, a better sense for rebounding and much greater defensive ability than DeMar while possessing the same eye popping athleticism.

DeRozan, however, is also a freak workhorse when it comes to spending focused hours in the gym trying to improve his game, and the strides he made from a passing/court vision standpoint in 2012-13 and his three-point improvement in the last month of the season are results of that work ethic. Whether or not Ross has that inside him remains to be seen, and right now it sounds like Casey’s staff is trying to coax it out of him.

Here’s hoping Casey and co. can do just that, because whether you’re looking for a playoff drought to end this season or looking at the bigger picture going forward, the ideal scenario either way would be for Ross to emerge as a consistent two-way wing player in 2013-14.

If he does that, he should be a valuable bench weapon for a competitive Raptors team this year while also making it easier to move one of DeRozan or Rudy Gay going forward, and in the modern NBA world of cap consciousness, being able to replace one of those two bloated contracts in Toronto’s core group with the rookie scale deal of Ross would be huge.

Of course, Ross first has to make good on the obvious potential coach Casey sees in him.