The Toronto Raptors finished the regular season as the third overall seed in the Eastern Conference, and will face the veteran Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs. Toronto has been known as Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan‘s team all season long, but the forgotten name in the mix is small forward Terrence Ross. If the Raptors want to defeat the Nets and make a postseason run, they are going to need Ross to step up in a big way.
Obviously the Raptors are still going to be led by both Lowry and DeRozan, but a championship contender always needs a third option to help take some of the stress away from the two key players. Ross has been that third scorer at times, but has been very inconsistent at other times. He has the athletic ability to be a special scorer, and even scored 51 points in a game earlier this season to prove that point.
Ross played in 80 regular season games this season, starting in 81 regular season games this season, starting in 62 of those appearances. He averaged 10.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game in those contests. Those numbers show just how much more potential he has to score at a higher rate, and the Raptors are going to need him to come through with at least 13-14 points per game in their series against Brooklyn.
His offensive game has improve in almost every category this season from last season, especially with his shooting percentages. The he biggest difference in his shooting numbers is his 39.7 percent shooting from behind the 3-point arc when he shot just 33.2 percent last season. He is going to need to be able to shot the ball well in the playoffs to help the Raptors stretch the floor and open the lane for Lowry and DeRozan to get to the rim and make plays.
Perhaps the most underrated aspect of his game is the ability that he has to be a lockdown defender. He isn’t consistent on the defensive side of the floor each and every night either, but he certainly can when he wants to be. His athletic ability alone allows him to match up with some of the best small forwards and even shooting guards in the game. The Nets have both Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson to be contained, so Ross will be asked to lay down excellent defense each game on one of those two guys.
Overall, the Raptors are out to prove themselves and shock the world. The Nets are currently viewed as the heavy favorites to win the series, but Toronto isn’t going to go down as easily as some people seem to think. If Ross can pick his game up for the postseason, this team is going to be fun to watch and a threat to make some noise.
Evan Massey is a Staff Writer for HoopsHabit.com. Follow Evan on Twitter at @Massey_Evan.