After enduring a rookie season ravaged with injuries and inconsistent play, Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors will now use these upcoming summer months as a catalyst towards a more prosperous and successful sophomore year.
Winning the NBA Sprite Slam Dunk Contest was Ross' big claim to fame in 2012-13. Sure, it brought some more exposure to the franchise, but being an elite dunker doesn't help put W's in the win column.
In 73 games, Ross averaged 6.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.7 assists.
It's hard to find playing time on a roster which is loaded with wings (DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Landry Fields, Alan Anderson), however, Ross never gave head coach Dwane Casey much of a reason to keep him on the court.
He was a liability on both offense and defense. He couldn't be trusted.
Casey has a reputation for not wanting to give rookies a substantial minutes (unless they're earned), but with Ross' poor level of play, his decision was all the easier.
Ross is only 22 years old, and there's a ton of basketball he has yet to play. No one is or should be throwing in the towel on him, just yet. He needs time and proper coaching to aid in his development.
Whether this is the right environment for him in that respect remains to be seen.
There is still plenty of work to be done, both from Ross himself and the Raptors' coaching staff.
Improve Outside Shooting
It usually takes college shooters a bit of an adjustment period to adapt to the NBA three-point line. That three-foot difference (20.75 feet in the NCAA to 23.75 feet in the NBA) would challenge any rookie's shot.
No one has ever questioned Ross' shooting technique and mechanics, as he does have a good enough form to eventually be formidable from behind the arc.
Still, he just found it difficult to put the ball in the basket last season, shooting just 40.7 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from three-point range. Of his 457 attempted shots, 308 were from 16 feet or longer.
If you're going to live around the perimeter, you'd better learn to find some kind of consistency.
It could also be an issue with his confidence. Ross would encounter shooting slumps on a regular basis and look visibly shaken afterwards. A lack of playing time and rookie jitters could factor into that, but a shooter can only be effective if they truly believe that their shot is going to fall. Hours upon hours of just practicing his shot will hopefully work out whatever problems he has.
Practice makes perfect.
Get Bigger/Learn to Attack Basket
Ross is too quick and too athletic to simply be a jump-shooter in this league.
His 195-pound frame prevents him from being assertive in attacking the rim, so adding muscle will allow him to be more physical in driving the lane.
He attempted only 76 shots at the rim last season and 40 shots from three to 10 feet. That's approximately 25 percent of his total shots being taken in close proximity to the basket. His free-throw attempts would see a nice increase if he put the ball on the floor more, as well. His 0.6 attempts (1.2 per 36 minutes) were second-lowest on the team.
Again, a lot of these things will become easier to do if Ross bulks up.
Hitting the weights and working on his body should be near the top of his to-do list this offseason. If he needs a blueprint for his physique, he should look no further than his teammate DeMar DeRozan, who is 6'7" (an inch taller) and 217 pounds (nearly 20 pounds heavier).
Anything less than 205 pounds simply won't cut it for Ross, and even that might not be enough.
Work on Perimeter Defense
The quickest way to get into Dwane Casey's good books is to become a reliable defender who can be put in during key situations when stops are required. Ross showed glimpses of being a capable defender here and there, but again, he didn't play enough to really know for sure.
To see his role increase to the point where he can legitimately compete for minutes with the likes of DeRozan and Rudy Gay, Ross will need to differentiate himself from the rest of the pack.
Yes, his shooting will be a big part of that, but becoming an above-average defender could be his saving grace.
His defensive numbers weren't anything to brag about (0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, defensive rating of 109, defensive win shares total of 0.8), so there is clearly room for improvement in that regard.
*All statistics courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference
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