The Toronto Raptors have not enjoyed the presence of an impact rookie since Wince Carter in ’98-’99. Other teams have happily drafted players like Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and many more, and watched them make an immediate and positive splash. We Raps fans have had to suffer through the trials and tribulations of so many youngsters, the nadir being of course Rafael Arujao. In fairness, none of our recent picks have bombed out, but none has been a Rookie of the Year candidate either.
Terrence Ross’ rookie season was another entry on this well-beaten path. TR won the Slam Dunk contest at the All-Star weekend (oh joy), but struggled with almost every element of the pro game, particularly on defense. His outside shooting, touted as the reason why Toronto “reached” for him with the #8 pick in the NCAA draft, was shaky.
TR’s second season as a pro has not been auspicious offensively, with no breakout games to his credit. So why would I even float the notion of moving him from the bench to the starting five? Here’s my reasoning, which you are welcome to critique:
- Dwane Casey seems to prefer a smaller, quicker lineup, and TR would certainly fit such a configuration.
- TR has not had the benefit of improving his game by working with the cream of the Raps’ roster for an extended period of play. When he’s on the floor, the point guard is likely to be Dwight Buycks, not Kyle Lowry. I have carped several times in this space about how TR doesn’t get the touches he needs to improve his offensive contributions. Perhaps if he’s force-fed into the starting five, Kyle and Rudy (I’m not worried about DeMar; he’s a generous passer) will be compelled to move the ball TR’s way.
- TR’s defense on the perimeter has improved sufficiently that he won’t be a liability against the opponents’ top swingmen.
- No one has a higher ceiling than TR.
Such a move impacts the starters dramatically. Rudy becomes a power forward, while DD is now the small forward. TR, with what we believe is his superior capability to shoot the 3, stays outside with Kyle. Rudy as a PF is not as outlandish as it sounds. He leads the team in blocked shots with 17, and is second in rebounds per game with 7.3.
Amir Johnson, the ultimate team-first guy, moves to the bench. Jonas Valanciunas has been on a short leash all season, getting fewer minutes (27.6) per game than any other starter. TR would gain about 10 more minutes of PT than his current 18.9. I don’t think coach Casey would be greatly stressed by the challenge of finding those minutes from JV, Amir or Tyler Hansbrough.
This is not a change I would make tomorrow. The Raps have won their last 2 games, and the old saw about not changing your lineup when you’re winning still applies. I also wouldn’t do this without several days of practice, and not on the home stand. The Raps have a 3-game western swing beginning December 6 in Phoenix. What a great opportunity to unveil our new lineup on an unsuspecting Suns squad, away from the scrutiny of hometown fans. Maybe we’d have our first impact sophomore – or maybe we won’t, but I’d love to find out.
Have I convinced you, Rapture Nation? Let me know in the Comments.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.
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