Terrence Ross might have to fight for playing time on the Toronto Raptors. Photo Credit: Mark Runyon, basketballschedule.net
When Terrence Ross was selected by the Toronto Raptors with the eighth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the response was tepid at best. Ross was viewed as a reach, a consolation prize for a team who fell in the lottery and would have been much happier with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Harrison Barnes.
Once Ross actually stepped onto the floor, however, that perception was laid to rest rather quickly. He immediately emerged as an entertaining, athletic player who was capable of scoring at a high volume in the NBA. He became known among Raptors fans for his excellent dunks, which were among the most thrilling in the NBA. The rest of the world found out about this in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, where Ross displayed both athleticism and panache as he defeated Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz for the Sprite Slam title.
Ross is both an entertaining player and someone with enough raw talent to become an All-Star. Unfortunately, he may find himself yearning for playing time in the next few months. Now that the Raptors have acquired Rudy Gay, they are pretty stacked when it comes to shooting guards and small forwards. They have Gay and Demar DeRozan in the starting lineup, while Landry Fields and Alan Anderson have been receiving minutes for the bench. That leaves Ross as the fifth player in this group and he becomes the odd man out.
It would be unfortunate if that were the case, since Ross was more raw talent that Anderson or Fields. Unfortunately for Ross, he picked a terrible time to get injured, as the team started winning games right around the time he left the lineup. Now, it would be foolish to claim that the lack of Ross in the lineup made the Raptors better. What happened was, after the Gay trade, the team became far more cohesive, with Kyle Lowry officially becoming the primary point guard, while Gay added necessary offensive firepower. Ross easily could have contributed to these times, but it just didn’t shake out that way.
Unfortunately, coaches tend to ride the “hot hand,” meaning that Raptors coach Dwane Casey may continue to give more minutes to Anderson and Fields than to Ross, simply because that’s been effective recently. It would be a foolish move, however. Fields is a limited player on offense and he’s regressed every year since his rookie season, while Anderson is a poor shooter who looks better than he is because he goes on hot streaks. Ross is too good to waste away on the bench. He is ready to contribute now and only giving him limited minutes would be incredibly foolish.
Amazingly, the Raptors are still in playoff contention, despite their dreadful start. The acquisition of Gay has undoubtedly been a huge part of that, but he can’t operate alone. The Raptors need an explosive, energetic player like Ross to spark the offense. He’s already a solid player and he’s going to get a lot better as he develops. The smartest thing Casey could do is let him play now.