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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.

Comments (35)

  1. I’m intrigued by Ross’ talent as much as the next guy, but he’s got to lose that ‘goofy teenager’ demeanour and turn up the intensity this year (especially considering he’s 22).

    He’s a critical young piece to this franchise’s future and will be key to getting anything out of our horrific-looking bench this coming season.

  2. Sigh…is there anything at all to separate Ross from the other dozen or so swingmen drafted every year? I bet most coaches say the same thing about their own resident freak athlete. Funny how every team seems to have such a special player, but if every one is special then…

    We’re not selling shoes here.

  3. Gerald Green.

    I don’t have anything else to say but I need to hit the minimum length requirement, so I’ve added this sentence.

  4. Of coarse Casey is saying this, he requested that Ross be drafted – now he needs to push this under achiever to help save his (Casey) rep on player evaluating!
    It comes down to either a player has “IT” or they don’t – “IT” meaning the mental focus it needs to be a successful NBA player, talent alone cannot just carry a player. Both is needed and right Ross doesn’t haven’t “IT”!

  5. I didn’t see enough of this promise/potential from Ross last year to say that with one offseason’s worth of work he can take the place of DeRozan or Gay (even with one or two more seasons).

    I agree with the “goofy teenager” comment from above. To me, he never really showed that desire or intensity last year.

    Here’s hoping that this offseason was a productive one.

  6. Ross showed more hustle to me on defense than any other player on the raptors last year. I am not going off statistic just observation. Also when he played with Jose, he seemed like a bonified all-star in the making. I am hoping he learns to play with Lowry. Coming off the bench though he could make a good shooting tandem with Augustine, Ross, Novak, Daye…

  7. “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”

    You’re usually pretty good with the numbers, but are you really saying that his improvements in the last month of the season are results of work ethic? What did he do before this month; not work? Also, he took 27 threes and made 11 of them. That’s not a big enough sample size to come to a definitive conclusion. At best there is some slight hint of improvements, and at worst it’s just randomness.

    Don’t play the arbitrary endpoints game to suit your narratives. Your articles are good enough. You don’t need to rely on that move.

    Also, I’m not sure what you mean by his passing/court vision improving. His assist rate last season was 0.6% better than the previous two seasons.

    http://www.hoopdata.com/player.aspx?name=DeMar%20DeRozan

    • Additional note: Alan Anderson had a higher assist rate than Derozan last season. Alan Anderson.

      • I didn’t say that DeRozan became an elite playmaker. But his improvement in that facet of the game was vastly improved last season, and you can’t just look at assist metrics as evidence, as not every good decision to move the ball results in an assist. Watching the games, DeMar was making better reads with the ball in his hands and was finally creating for others when drawing a second defender, something he couldn’t do in his first three seasons.

        I’ve been pretty hard on DeRozan’s game through the years, but there was a visible improvement in his court vision throughout the season

        About the three-point shooting, he’s been dreadful for his career, then knocked down 40% over the final 15 games of the year in a small sample size. Won’t deny that.

        • I get that passing metrics aren’t perfect, but it’s easier to accept that the metrics are right, and that his playmaking is unchanged, rather than assume that he’s making all the plays that elude the boxscore. It’s certainly possible that his playmaking has improved, but it’s more likely, given the data, that it hasn’t.

          Anyway, great article Joseph! Insightful points as always.

    • It’s also a lot easier to nail 3′s and play well when you’re playing “no pressure” games at the end of the season. He always seems to play better once the team is officially out of the playoff race.

      • This is conjecture.

        Shooting a three-pointer doesn’t become easier when your team is eliminated from the playoff race, despite what traditional narrative tells you. It becomes easier with repetition, with added leg strength, and when your mechanics improve.

        • Really? So the term “clutch” has no meaning? The last month of the season for a non-playoff team presents a much different dynamic when you start breaking down stats of a particular player during that month. Demar playing tons of games in a row that mean absolutely nothing, versus Demar playing on a team fighting for the playoffs, is two totally different scenarios. Different juices flowing, pressure etc… You have to admit that Demar could jack up 3′s with more confidence towards the end of the season knowing that if he misses, the games mean nothing….that’s all i’m saying Joseph.

          • The threes were definitely not as meaningful as if the raps had been in the race and he may very well have been more free to TAKE more as a result, but that doesn’t mean those shots become easier to MAKE.

          • @Joseph

            Yes it does. They’re easier to make because he’s no worried about missing. Add the pressure of a meaningful game, and the shot becomes a lot tougher…..he has to think more about his shot selection.

          • So is a wide open three-pointer in the opening minute of a meaningful game tougher to hit than a contested three-pointer with a meaningless game on the line then? Shooting comes down to a lot of variables. Saying it’s just easier to make shots in meaningless games is too simplistic. A more accurate determination of the degree of difficulty in a shot would be how it’s defended, who it’s defended by, the angle, the shot clock, etc. When determining how difficult a shot was to make, I’d say those factors matter more than how important the game in question was.

            You can make the small sample size argument. You can say that a young player gets more opportunities than usual in meaningless games. You can look at the quality of competition when judging performances down the stretch of lost seasons. But I just don’t think we can say shooting the ball is automatically easier in less meaningful games.

          • I have to side with Joe on this one – Even though the last month was a wash for the Raps and the pressure (to win ONLY) is not there for DD, the pressure to be better and improve for the team and as a personal goal still exists.
            DDs shots are not easier to make in the last month of a lost season – even though the Raps are playing meaningless games (in consideration to not being in the play-offs), the other teams who are play-off teams they are playing are challenging him hard on defense and contesting those shots just like they would in Oct – DD does not get free non pressured shots because his team is out of the race…the competition is still playing him hard, for the fact they need to win! Therefore, the stat is meaningful!

          • I have to side with both of you… I remember there was a youtube video of Demar shooting 3′s at Canada’s Wonderland. Couldn’t hit any… I’m pretty sure the pressure of winning a stuffed animal WAS NOT the cause of his failure…

            Through the course of a game, I don’t think whether or not the game is meaningful affects your shot. However, as pointed out by Sly, “Clutch players” definitely respond better than the typical athlete during a high pressure, time-sensitive, situation.

          • I realize that there are MANY variables that factor in to the difficulty level of a particular shot. I don’t disagree with what you guys are saying, I was just defending my original comment. I still believe that players react and play differently based on the importance of the game at hand, even if it’s a only a slight difference. It’s human nature, emotions affect your whole body, including decision making which in turn COULD affect shot release etc… As simplistic and small of point that this is, it does exist in sport. He won’t have nearly the same emotions in the last month of a losing season as he will at the start of let’s say this upcoming season. Moving on… lol

      • @Jimmy – horrible example with the “CNE” bit. So what if missed those shots, its different then game time ball – how many great 3 point shooters through out a season go to the All-star game to participate in the 3 point game and come up looking lame? Enough do, that’s who…and so did DD that day – besides maybe he was “just off” that day, while he was clowning around at the EX!

        @Peckerhead…opps, I mean Sly
        ” I still believe that players react and play differently based on the importance of the game at hand”
        you might be correct but that is just an assumption unless you have proof from the player admitting that…However, while DD is not playing for a play-off spot, his opponent might be in March/April, so therefore his shots is properly contested – just like it would be in the beginning of the season when the games are very important.
        Your reasoning “or point” if we are calling it that – might apply only IF, DD’s opponent is also not playing for a play-off spot at that point in the schedule (and including) if they are not playing in a contract year AND/OR if they are not playing for a spot on next years roster AND/OR if they are not playing with heart and compassion for the game AND/OR if they are not playing for personal pride AND/OR if they are not playing to try and take advantage of the playing time to improve a skill – then and only then you made your point!…Till then, your wrong he’s wright!…BAMM!

        • Peckerhead was uncalled for…. It’s funny how I make one comment, and all of you OVERanalyze the fuck out of it to try and make me look like an idiot. I stand by my original comment. Fuck all this “your comment is too simple” and “you can’t prove that” bullshit. Get a life Bozo. And what does “opps” mean? Your mom should have named you oops.

          • whoa, whoa, whoa – just clownin’ ’round, bro!…Why so thinned skinned???
            It’s all in fun…can Brother Haywood get a “AMEN” for ole Sly-boy!!!!

          • You’re an idiot youngjames.

        • @Haywood

          I get what you’re saying. However, to be honest, I would imagine shooting in the 3point shoot-out to be a high pressure situation. You can’t compare that to the ex. The whole world watching, just you and you alone competing against some of the other great shooters in the NBA.. time pressure… the pressure of doing well. None of those guys want to come last to their colleagues, or be the NBAer that only hit 1 or 2 threes.

  8. Joey Graham 2.0? I sure hope not.

    • Joey had a low basketball IQ and was slow. Ross has neither of those problems. He just seems to be undermotivated. But as we learned from the great Bargnani experiment, motivation is just as much a skill as jumping or shooting. I hope Ross gets some, but it is entirely possible that he just doesn’t have that drive.

  9. I hate terrence ross. So many guys in the league like him that are great athletes but terrible basketball players with no motor. DD is another example but he is mediocre at least. BC’s biggest draft blunder was taking ross over drummond. Just inexcusable that the franchise at that point didnt take the best player available. Alas, theyre stuck with this guy who has a role player ceiling. I would use him as trade bait.

    • I love how everyone in hindsight says Drummond was the best player available. @ the draft he was considered a HUGE risk to take. They didn’t know if he was the next Dwight Howard or the next Stromile Swift.

    • I listened to that draft live on the radio, and the real tragedy was when Barnes went #7. That’s the only reason we’re having this conversation. He slid all the way to … #7 damn it!

      • The REAL horror was that, if you recall, the Raptors and Warriors finished tied for the 7th and 8th worst records but Golden State won the seventh-best lottery odds over Toronto on a coin flip. Given that the No. 7 and No. 8 picks ended up according to the odds, you can really look at it like the Raptors lost Harrison Barnes on a coin flip.

        Even worse, the Warriors had no business being THAT bad until they traded for an unhealthy Bogut and went into obvious tank mode, while the Raptors should have been much worse but were winning games with Ben Uzoh and Alan Anderson in the starting lineup.

  10. @JMay – tell me about it, bro!
    Drummond was a HUGE risk at the time, who plays the same position as Big-Val. And, still is a big risk with all his injuries last season – who knows this guy might be another Bynum…solid player who cannot stay off the injured list.
    AD has 20-20 hindsight – he is the guy that knows the winning numbers after the lottery over!

  11. Hey bro…yo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    J May and Brother Haywood are not the same person at all…………….——————–and they are definitely not youngjames!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    HR 4EVA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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