May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Terrence Ross (31) goes up to make a basket as Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams (8) and forward Paul Pierce (34) defend in the first half of game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Terrence Ross & foul line - time to get acquainted

Apr 22, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Terrence Ross (31) tries to go around Brooklyn Nets center-forward Kevin Garnett (2) and guard Joe Johnson (7) during the first half of game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

As I continue my slog through last season’s Toronto Raptors statistical data, I’m struck by an anomaly with Terrence Ross. Here’s a wingman, known for his spectacular attacks at the basket, who can’t get to the foul line. In 2, 159 minutes of playing time, he took 98 free throws, or one every 22.03 minutes. Contrast that with DeMar DeRozan, who played 3, 017 minutes, and tried 630 FTs, or one every 4.78 minutes. That’s a head-scratcher of significant dimensions.

There’s a explanation readily available, namely that TRoss spends a great deal of his time outside the 3-point arc. His time there was hardly wasted; TRoss finished tied for 19th in the NBA with 161 3-pointers, though his percentage didn’t crack the leaderboard. He and the departed Steve Novak are the only Raps who attempted more three-balls than 2-point field goals. Certainly a 3-point shooter is far less likely to be fouled than a DeMar DeRozan on a power drive to the hoop. Defenders are taught to bother, but never contact, a player attempting a long shot, lest you give up the dreaded 4-point play. However, that’s hardly satisfying. The scoring demands placed on our starting small forward are much greater than those on a one-trick pony like Novak. What is TRoss doing, or not doing, which is keeping him away from the charity stripe?

A clue lies in his 2-point FG percentage, which is 45.8. While that’s not terrible, it ain’t great, neither. [20-second timeout: While researching this post, I found www.nba.com describes TRoss as a Forward (no adjective), while www.basketball-reference.com lists him as a Shooting Guard. As regular readers know, I don't particularly care about such things, which is why I use the term "swingman" so much. However, listing him at different positions does make detailed comparisons between TRoss and his peers - who are they, exactly? - more complicated.]  If I’m an opposing coach game-planning my defense against the Raps, I’m telling my guys “Whatever you do, don’t foul Ross, even on his 2-pointers. He misses so many – just get a hand up, and box him out.” This advice is doubly effective. Terrence shoots FTs at 83.7%, so he makes the opponents pay. However, TRoss grabbed a mere 43 offensive rebounds last season, a woeful total for a player with his mad hops. If he pulled down a decent number, chances are, being so close to the basket, he’d get hacked when he went back up.

If Terrence Ross is going to spike his scoring average this upcoming season, he’s got to get to the foul line more. He won’t, unless he makes more pull-up jumpers inside the arc. Once he’s established his bona fides with that shot, defenders will have no choice but to risk challenging it. He also needs to spend more time studying how to be more effective on the offensive boards. If we see improvement in both those categories, our team is going to have a lot of fun.

 

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