What to do with Terrence Ross? Part 2 of 2


If Ross were removed from the starting line-up, we’re left with an empty slot. The obvious replacement, especially considering the Raptors needs at the 3, is one James Johnson. Before you start to scream “small sample size”, believe me, I know. 15 games does not a redemption story make, but it’s undeniable that Johnson has been nothing short of a revelation this season. Gone are the days of James doing his best poor man’s Larry Bird impression with idiotic passes, poor ball-handling and off balance one-foot jumpers. After his banishment from the Raptors following the 2011-2012 season when he was branded as a locker-room cancer and general head case, Johnson has remade himself. His career altering stint with Memphis last season transformed Johnson into a 6-9, 245 pound version of Tony Allen who can defend 4 positions (and occasionally the 5), hang onto the ball, create his own shot when needed and pass effectively enough as to not have the ball stick. This all might be an aberration (hello small sample size!) but so far he ranks fourth on the team in PER behind only Williams, Lowry and Valanciunas.

Nov 15, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward James Johnson (3) dribbles the ball during the second quarter in a game at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 111-93. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The elite defense and ability to cover multiple positions that Johnson provides would allow DeMar to be hidden a bit more on the defensive end. Since James Johnson has no business having plays run for him on the offensive end, it opens up more touches for the rest of the starting unit (especially Valanciunas). The Raptors would take a hit on 3-point shooting from their starting unit, with Kyle Lowry and (*gulp*) Amir Johnson becoming the primary 3-point shooters. We’ve seen some improvement from DeRozan from the 3-point line this season, and ultimately he’ll have to permanently add that dimension to his game to join the other elite shooting guards in the NBA. Whether swapping 3-point shooting for defense is a positive change is entirely up to Casey, but with his defensive minded approach it’s reasonable to assume that such a change lines up with his coaching philosophy.

Just because I’m advocating for Terrence to be removed from the starting line-up doesn’t mean I’m arguing for his minutes to be cut. On the contrary, I’d prefer his minutes to either remain the same or increase (taking some of Hansbrough’s 17.5/game would be nice). With Lowry and DeRozan out of the equation, the opportunity arises to significantly increase Ross’ usage rate on the offensive end. For James Johnson, a very short leash would likely be in order, but small sample size or not I genuinely believe he’s embraced his role as defensive stopper for this squad.

A switch in the line-up wouldn’t be without its risks. Taking a young player like Ross out of the starting line-up could be a significant risk to his confidence, and boosting a little known commodity like James Johnson into the bright lights of a starting position for the best team in the East when he was out of the league only a year ago could prove to be too significant of a role change.

The Toronto Raptors only have until Oct. 31st, 2015 to find out what exactly they have in Terrence Ross before they negotiate a contract extension (same goes for Valanciunas). As the Raptors are currently constructed, I truly believe a change positions them for a deep run in the playoffs, but is also in the best interest for Ross’ development going forward to transition from our starting small forward to first wing off the bench/6th man. With James Johnson quickly on his way to fully recovering from his ankle sprain, the time might be right for a change.

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