Raptors swingman Terrence Ross showed his ability to elevate Tuesday night. (Canadian Press)It wasn't the selection many Toronto Raptors fans wanted. Why not draft 6-foot-10 power forward Andre Drummond and develop him alongside rookie center Jonas Valanciunas or guard Austin Rivers, a highly touted scorer out of Duke many were wondering online the night of the 2012 NBA Draft.
It was because instead of taking the bigger name in Drummond or Rivers with the eighth-overall pick last June, the Raptors decided instead to make a surprise selection and draft the player who was ranked the highest on their draft board and more importantly best filled their needs as a franchise. That ended up being 6-foot-6 swingman Terrence Ross out of the University of Washington.
While Ross was ranked 27th by ESPN's John Hollinger and on many draft boards out of the top-10, the 21-year-old seems to be fitting in coming off the bench for a Raptors team that in many ways is still searching for it's identity.
In Toronto's 117-101 loss to the Houston Rockets — the team's fifth loss in a row — Ross gave Raptors fans another reason to focus their eyes on the future rather than the Raps dismal 3-12 start that has them sitting in second last in the Eastern Conference.
Not only did Ross have a breakthrough performance putting up a career-high 19 points and five rebounds in 35 minutes off the bench, but he also showed his inherent athletic ability with several impressive throwdowns including the NBA's dunk of the night.
With the Raptors trailing by 17 early in the fourth quarter Ross attempted to re-energize the group, recovering a Jeremy Lin turnover, taking the ball down court uncontested and providing his best re-creation of Michael Jordan's infamous free-throw line dunk. OK fine, Ross' foot was well inside the foul line upon liftoff, but it was still an impressive leap considering Ross wasn't exactly picking up speed until half court.
Toronto Star reporter Doug Smith had this to say after Ross' big night for the Raptors:
Yes, that was a breakout kind of night for the kid, who not only made shots and had dunks but he defended James Harden pretty well at times.
Does he need to play more? Maybe a bit but 35 minutes last night would be about tops.
Does he need to start? No way.
They need his energy and talents off the bench right now; I don't know that anyone would feel comfortable with Dom McGuire energizing a second unit and Linas Kleiza is simply too hit and miss.
So, by all means play Ross more consistently, let him finish games but leave him as the first win off the bench. It's the best use of personnel right now.
And the Jordan-esque dunk wasn't Ross' only highlight reel play of the night. In the second quarter Ross took a pass from point guard Jose Calderon just outside the three-point line, drove past Rockets guard Daequan Cook and threw down another dunk.
"I thought Terrence Ross had his best game and gave us some big-time minutes," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said after Tuesday's loss. "Now we need to get some other people to join the party."
Is Ross the answer to the Raptors winning woes? Likely not, but if the rookie can continue to perform on a consistent basis, he gives Dwane Casey an energizing option off the bench and maybe even has the potential to earn a spot in the starting lineup as Toronto continues to try and find the right mix, especially on the wings.