Scouting Report, Analysis and Predictions for Raptors Rookie Terrence Ross

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Scouting Report, Analysis and Predictions for Raptors Rookie Terrence Ross
Nick Laham/Getty Images

"Reach" is a relative term in the NBA draft. Every team enters the draft with different priorities and different methodologies with regard to evaluating and selecting players in any given year.

To call Terrence Ross a "reach" at No. 8, then, is to take umbrage with how the Toronto Raptors go about their business.

Which would be rather reasonable actually, considering the Raptors haven't reached the playoffs since 2008 and appear to have plenty of building left to do before they can crack the code in the Eastern Conference.

Still, GM Bryan Colangelo's presumptive process in picking Ross, projected by some as a late lottery pick, has its merits. Rumors of a promise made by Toronto to Dion Waiters began to swirl after the Syracuse guard abruptly withdrew from the pre-draft combine in Chicago and canceled his remaining workouts.

But when the Cleveland Cavaliers took Waiters with the No. 4 pick, the Raptors were left without their first choice on the wing, at which point they evidently opted for the 6'7" swingman out of Washington as their Plan B.

In reality, nobody will know with any certainty whether or not Toronto actually "reached" for Ross until the kid's had the opportunity to strut his stuff in live NBA action. A strong rookie season by Ross would go a long way toward not only establishing himself as a fixture north of the border, but also absolving Colangelo of a perceived "sin," if a minor one.

 

How Ross Fits In

Terrence Ross' list of NBA-ready skills, of which the Raptors would do well to take advantage, is short and sweet: He shoots and he defends.

On the offensive end, Ross projects a rangy, athletic "two" guard who can get his own shot and convert at a high rate. His shooting stroke is picturesque with a high release point and smooth mechanics to go along with tremendous balance on his feet.

Ross' combination of leaping and shooting ability—along with his penchant for getting off shots in all manner of situations—has drawn favorable comparisons to Nick Young and JR Smith. Whether such comparisons are flattering or not is another story entirely.

The point is, Ross can and does shoot more often than not. According to Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress, 67.2 percent of Ross' possessions in college ended with him jacking up a jumper. To his credit, Ross was effective in such a role thanks in no small part to his deep range (37.1 percent from three).

Ross' arrival should help the Raptors spread the floor even more with a roster that already features five players—Linas Kleiza, Alan Anderson, Jose Calderon, Kyle Lowry and John Lucas III—who shot better than 34 percent from deep last season.

Not to mention Andrea Bargnani and DeMar Derozan, who've both been known to launch the long ball from time to time.

That'll come in handy for a T-Dot team that ranked 20th in three-point percentage and 24th in two-point percentage last season.

Defense, though, wasn't particularly problematic for the Raptors last season—they ranked in the top 10 in just about every category related to field goal defense—and should be even less so with Ross on board. He's a fundamentally sound defender who understands how to position himself between ball and man at all times, be it as an off-ball defender or while boxing out on the boards.

Ross' fundamentals are only aided by his all-around athleticism. When the basics fail him, Ross can use his physical skills to recover and make plays anyway.

Per Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress, Ross limited his opponents in college to 0.88 points per possession (PPP) in catch-and-shoot situations, 0.69 PPP on jump shots and 0.4 PPP when going to his right. On the whole, the players Ross defended shot just 21.7 percent in isolation situations.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, a defensive guru in his own right, should find Ross' proficiency as a lockdown perimeter defender to his liking.

 

Adjustments Ross Must Make at the Pro Level

On the other hand, Casey might not care for Terrence Ross' jump-shooting ways, if only because they portend a player who leaves much to be desired as a ball-handler, passer and playmaker. That is, Ross took so many jumpers because he couldn't (or chose not to) take the the ball to the basket.

It's no wonder, either. Ross averaged more turnovers (2.0) than assists (1.4) and gave the ball away on 12 percent of his possessions as a sophomore.

Ross' middling dribble and the rash of turnovers it precipitated served to discourage him from attacking the rim and, in turn, left him without many attempts from the free-throw line. Ross notched just 2.7 foul shots per game in Year 2 at Washington, placing him fourth in that category on his own team, even though he was the Huskies' leading scorer.

If Ross is ever to become a go-to scorer in the NBA (or at least make the Raptors look good for taking a chance on him at No. 8), he'll need to tighten up his dribble and work on both getting to the basket and drawing contact while there.

Some time spent on his passing wouldn't hurt, either.

 

Intangibles

To his credit, Terrence has already shown himself to be a diligent worker who improves from year to year and isn't afraid to seize the opportunity when it's there for the taking. Ross' minutes (17.4 to 31.1) and shots (6.8 to 13.4) increased dramatically between his freshman and sophomore seasons, paving the way for spikes in his scoring (8.0 points to 16.4 points) and rebounding (2.8 board to 6.4 boards).

Some of that growth can be attributed to the natural leap that most collegians make in their second seasons. Ross was no longer a newbie to the college game and showed as much on the court as a sophomore.

Still, there's something to be said for a player whose improvement in productivity so closely mirrors the expansion of his role on a team. It helps, too, that he stepped up his game as far as defense and shot selection are concerned.

If Ross applies himself to the game as a pro as diligently as (or more so than) he did at UW, he'll have a legitimate chance to be a special player in Toronto.

 

Rookie-Year Projections

Nick Laham/Getty Images

Terrence Ross' productivity as a rookie will depend on the role into which he's cast by Dwane Casey. Ross won't have much competition for the starting job at shooting guard, though the player set to give chase—Landry Fields, to whom the Raptors gave $18.75 million this summer—could be an issue for the first-year sharpshooter.

Assuming Fields doesn't infringe too much on his territory (and shots-per-game stats), Ross should be good for 12 to 15 points and five rebounds on a nightly basis.

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The folks at bovada.lv, though, don't seem so sure that his numbers will be Rookie-of-the-Year-worthy. He's currently listed as a 30-to-1 oddsmaker, putting him on par with fellow long shots Austin Rivers, Maurice Harkless and Tyler Zeller.

As much of a ROY outsider as Ross may be, at least he can claim to be on an "if" team in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. That is, the Raptors could end their four-year postseason drought if Andrea Bargnani stays healthy, DeMar Derozan improves, Linas Kleiza returns to a greater semblance of his pre-knee-injury self, Kyle Lowry plays as well as he did during the first half of the 2011-12 season with the Houston Rockets and new import Jonas Valanciunas lives up to the considerable hype.

And, of course, if Terrence Ross can shoot the lights out on offense and shut 'em down on defense well enough to look less like a reach and more like a steal.

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