The Toronto Raptors have had a rough stretch in terms of drafting the past few seasons. Not many of their picks have worked out, nor come close to the raw potential they were scouted as possessing.
Whether it's the soon-to-be-traded Andrea Bargnani or the recently moved Ed Davis, the Raptors front office can't come to terms with which direction the team is headed. The recently acquired Rudy Gay is a positive building block, but rookie Terrence Ross has made some noise around the league.
While bringing the Slam Dunk Contest title back to Toronto will certainly be his coming-out party, Ross has deserved the level of attention he will receive all along. He's averaging just 6.4 points per game on 39.9 percent shooting, but he only receives 16.9 minutes per game of playing time.
While I highly discourage the use of per-48-minute statistics, it is one of the few pathways to take in terms of understanding Ross' contributions were they spread out over extended court time.
Ross' numbers elevate to 18.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per 48 minutes, with 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals. Since the arrival of Gay, DeMar DeRozan has been seemingly relegated to a secondary role. This is mostly due to Gay's All-Star credentials, yet it leads to the possibility of Ross replacing him.
That isn't to say DeRozan is no longer an effective player, nor does it discredit his improvement over the past few seasons. Despite the mass belief, he has a solid mid-range jumper, but it does not extend to the three-point line. It's been the only knock on his all-around game, yet is something the rookie Ross already has nailed down.
Ross is making one three per game, shooting 33.1 percent, which is great for a rookie. Surprisingly he is making just 27 percent of his three-point attempts from the corner, as it is considered the easiest long-range shot due to the shorter distance. Ross shoots at a higher 36 percent clip from the perimeter, which points to the possibility of him becoming a lethal shooter.
Most players, even those especially diverse in the way of shooting the ball, shoot a higher percentage from the corner than any other area on the court. To understand Ross' ability to be more accurate above the break is a great sign of further developing his jump shot.
A little under 50 percent of the swingman's offense comes from three-point shots, as the Raptors run him as a spot-up shooter 34.2 percent of the time. DeRozan, on the other hand, still cannot find a consistent stroke from beyond the arc.
The fourth-year guard is making just 27.7 percent from deep for the season, which is not only poor within itself, but pales further as you consider a rookie outperforms him in this aspect.
Toronto has the opportunity to have a stellar young roster, headlined by Gay, Ross, Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas. Until DeRozan is out of the picture, Ross will not receive the opportunity to allow his potential to shine through.
Keeping DeRozan around for the next season or two would be an encouraged scenario, as the Raptors have won four of their last five. Big victories over powerhouse teams like Denver, Indiana and New York have shown what the current roster is capable of.
However, from a perspective of looking toward the future, it would seem Ross is the waiting heir to DeRozan's starting role. His rookie-scale deal is much preferred over the $38 million DeRozan is owed over the next four seasons, thus making a decision parting with the latter all that much easier.
In addition, Ross already has a well-rounded game that could rival DeRozan at this point. To develop the former over simply riding out the already tapped potential of the latter is ideal, as DeRozan's ceiling is more or less what we're seeing in his current play.
As aforementioned, the team has great chemistry right now. They're winning against playoff teams, but the Raptors will not meet them come the end of the season. While that alone shouldn't serve as incentive to move DeRozan, it makes it easier to comprehend that Ross has the capability, skill and competence to take over.
Ross has shown flashes of brilliance, and winning the Slam Dunk Contest will push his confidence to a new level. Inconsistent playing time has hindered his ability to be a constant threat, yet Ross certainly looks to be a star in the making.
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