The Raptors were hoping Harrison Barnes would fall to them at 8th in the 2012 NBA Draft, however, Barnes went to the Warriors at seven and then Toronto passed on Andre Drummond to take who they believed was the next best wing player available. The surprise was Toronto didn’t take Jeremy Lamb, but rather the less known collegian Terrence Ross.
How Barnes ended up in Golden State was something of a controversy in Toronto. In the final game of the season, the Nets faced off against the Raptors in a battle for the sixth worst record overall having already given away their first round draft pick to the Trail Blazers and they threw it – with gusto. A 98-67 Raptors win where the Nets looked like a team that was told to lose. Barely ever heard of Ben Uzoh had a triple-double and raw prospect center Solomon Alibi had 11 points and 19 rebounds for the Raptors – okay, Toronto was trying to lose as well, but the Nets looked like a team that would have started scoring for Toronto if necessary.
The Raptors lost a tie-breaker with Golden State to end up picking 8th and all the lamenting in the world wasn’t going to get Barnes in a Toronto uniform after that.
It’s been two full seasons since then, so how do the Barnes vs. Ross comparisons look now?
Barnes had the better two-year college career, but numbers wise, Ross had caught up as a sophomore, however, Barnes at 6’8 228 lbs with a 38” standing vertical had the size and hops Ross couldn’t match at 6’7 197 lbs and 31” no-step vertical – even if Ross could almost jump as high when both players had a running start.
As NBA rookies, there was no comparison. Barnes started 81 games and averaged 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and shot 35.9 percent from three-point range on a 47-win team. He was a top 10 rookie with promise. Ross came off the bench for the 34-win Raptors and never did anything to suggest he should start. He averaged 6.4 points and 2 rebounds and as a three-point shooter coming into the league, he only hit on 33.2 percent of them. Ross wasn’t a bust, but he wasn’t getting it done on the court either.
The only thing Ross could point to from his rookie season was winning the NBA Slam Dunk competition during All-Star weekend – a nice feather in his cap he would have traded for a better jump shot.
A terrible NBA Summer League threw even more doubts Ross’ way and with Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan on the Raptors roster to start the season, Ross was still stuck coming off the bench.
Barnes had his own problems going into his sophomore season. After an outstanding playoff performance, the Warriors had signed Andre Iguodala as a free agent anyway and Barnes was going from starter to second string. Barnes did get 24 starts and his minutes actually went up by 11 percent, but there was no big sophomore bump. Barnes averaged 9.5 points and 4 rebounds and his per minute production and shooting took a noticeable step back – Barnes two-point shooting dropped to 41.9 percent from 46.4 and his three-point shooting fell to 34.7 percent. All this while his team won 51 games.
Ross’ season turned on the Rudy Gay trade in December when he joined a Raptors starting unit that won the most games in franchise history. Toronto reversed a 6-12 start to the season and their fortunes of a year earlier to win 48 games. Ross averaged 10.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and shot 39.5 percent from three-point range on the season, numbers that improved to 12.2 points, 3.3 boards and over 40 percent from deep as a starter. Ross got accolades on his defense from his coach most nights and started to look like a three-and-D type of player.
It was another strong showing for Ross at the NBA’s Slam Dunk competition this time as well and the Eastern Conference participants were declared the winners – not that doing well in Slam Dunk competitions means much in real games. Barnes was one of three players representing the Western Conference this time.
The in-season success didn’t translate for Ross in the playoffs like it did initially for Barnes, although Barnes had his own struggles last April as well.
After two NBA seasons, Ross’ per minute numbers and shooting percentages are on the rise and passing those of the stagnating/slipping Barnes. Ross has become a player that can be envisioned as a big piece of the Raptors future while Barnes is decidedly headed in the opposite direction according to Nate Parham in SB Nation’s Golden State of Mind.
“Right now, that’s the mystery with Barnes: he’s a mixed bag of skills that don’t match his physical tools and it just isn’t clear what role he’ll ever find to justify the expectations that people have for him.”
“Ultimately, Barnes has a lot to overcome and it seems that the closer you interrogate the more optimistic projections the harder it becomes to believe the hype.”
In the Barnes versus Ross comparisons, maybe the Nets did the Raptors a favor in April of 2012.
Why Landry Fields still with the Raptors
Last season Landry Fields had a chance to be a regular rotation player if his right arm was working, however, he’ll come into camp this time as a third string player from day one. “I thought about even switching to my left hand and shooting left-handed.” Fields said.