Terrence Ross is tied with the world famous and undoubted future Hall of Fame inductee Vince Carter for the most points scored by a Raptors player in a regular season game, so fans in Toronto know he can score, but through four seasons Ross has often been more of a tease than the player it’s relatively easy to envision him becoming. Queue his fifth NBA preseason.
Has the light finally turned on for this naturally gifted but inconsistent wing player? Ross has proven he has a jump shot and can nail the three-ball over the course of the past three NBA seasons. He has been outstanding in NBA Dunk Contests suggesting just maybe he should be a little/ a lot better at attacking the rim and he’s shown flashes of outstanding defense, albeit mixed in with stretches of ‘where’s his head at?’
The Raptors are showing subtle signs of impatience with Ross’ progress and brought in three not so young three-point specialists to training camp in Brady Heslip, E.J. Singler and Jarrod Uthoff. If Ross looks soft in preseason any one of these guys would love a shot to prove that they could stretch the floor for head coach Dwane Casey.
In the preseason opener against Golden State, Ross sent a message he wasn’t about to lose his job to some undrafted rookie by shooting 5-9 from the field for 11 points in 15 minutes of action. However, Casey remained tepid in his praise. He’s seen this before.
“Once he hit a couple of shots he got a little bounce in his step and it kind of gets him going, that’s Terrence,” Casey said after the game. “If he sees one go down he gets a little bounce in his step defensively. He had a little bounce in his step offensively. He did a good job. He was a +9. When you come into a game and have an impact on a game like that, I was really impressed.”
To be sure Casey was more impressed with the impact of training camp invitee Drew Crawford who was +14, but fortunately for Ross, Crawford isn’t really a threat to take his minutes (at least not yet).
In preseason game two against Denver Casey gave a couple of his starters the night off freeing up more minutes for the guys fighting it out to make the roster or hold on to their spot in the rotation. Apparently Ross got the message and upped his game to another level. Ross was on fire, shooting 8-12 from the field and nailing four three-balls to score a game-high 23 points in just 20 minutes.
After this effort Casey started moving back towards his usually more hopeful assessment of the young wing he was on board with drafting back in 2012.
“Terrence is mature, he’s growing,” Casey said after game two. “I think that’s part of his growth is to do that every night with the minutes he has in there. Whether he’s in there 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, to go in and produce. Not only on the offensive end, I thought he was active on the defensive end too which was a positive.”
The Raptors extended Ross for three more seasons a year ago and with three-point shooting at a premium in the NBA, Ross will continue to be player mentioned in just about any trade rumor involving Toronto. However, if the light has really come on for Ross, his $10 million per year contract is a bargain under the current and projected NBA Salary Cap. The Raptors will be hoping that’s true, so keep watching this year’s preseason with that in mind. There’s nothing like someone going after your job to bring out the best you have to offer.