When Terrence James Elijah Ross was drafted eighth overall in the 2012 NBA draft, the website Hickory-High.com ran a series of "draft similarity scores" for he and his draftmates. The scores attempt to give readers an idea of what current and former NBA players the new class might turn out like based on a myriad of metrics.
For Ross, the aforementioned four names were a smattering of the players Hickory-High compared him to, and based on Ross' defensive traits, size, and ability to shoot the three-point shot, those names seem fairly apt as comparables.
Not that they represented his ceiling of course. I don't know a Raptors' fan that posted a comment on our site to the effect of "hell yeah, we landed a Childress!", after he was selected.
In fact, many fans, myself included, saw him as a potential Morris Peterson type, with more upside due to his freakish athletic ability. As his rookie season unfolded in fact, another name kept popping into my head. Not Peterson, but another former Spartan, Jason Richardson. Richardson was never a great creator off the bounce, but he, like Ross was a freak athlete with great defensive intangibles, who could spread the court thanks to his long-range shooting. (Although it's hard to say Richardson ever completely made use of said defensive intangibles.) You forget now how good Richardson was but during his early years in Golden State, Richardson averaged nearly 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game, and was a match-up problem every time he stepped on the court.
Obviously Ross is no Richardson at this point, especially in terms of playing time and being a focal point in his team's offense, but I found his stats per 36 minutes compared to Richardson's in his second year in G State very interesting:
Both shot over 35 per cent from long range, had identical block and steals per game totals, similar rebounding and scoring marks, as well as field goal percentage results. Factor in the larger usage for Richardson and maybe things look even more similar.
But of course, so what?
So what that Ross has some second-year metrics that closely resemble one of the better swingmen of the last decade? You could probably make similar comparisons to various other players such as Childress and Rush, couldn't you?
Indeed you probably could, but it's Richardson, and players of his ilk that interest me most, especially in the light of last night's game.
And really, that's what this is all about.
Because as drawn in as you were to Terrence Ross' shooting exploits on the way to his franchise-tying 51 point game, there was likely a follow up question in your mind after the final horn sounded, and that question was likely something to the effect of "can he do this again?"
Or, simply "now what?"
Let's be real here. No one saw this coming. In fact as some noted on Twitter last night, if you were to rank the most unexpected 50 point performance in NBA history, this one falls somewhere around Tony Delk and Charles Smith. (Although in my books, Andre Miller still wears this crown.) Ross has had some solid shooting nights, but nothing like this.
Sure, it helped that the club no longer had Rudy Gay, and DeMar DeRozan left with an ankle injury leaving a lot of the scoring load on Ross' shoulders, but 51??!! I mean, according to Elias Sports, Ross is the first NBA'er to score 50, while averaging less than 10 points per game!!
So again, it's hard not to wonder if this is the start of something special, or simply a Tony Delk-esque game, and Ross will go back to scoring 15 points one night, and 3 the next.
After all, 30 of Ross' 51 points came from behind the arc where he hit 10 of 17 long-range bombs. (Yes, 17!!) So it wasn't as if he suddenly morphed into a completely different player, creating off the bounce, taking his man off the dribble and into the paint ala Vince Carter, etc, etc. The bulk of Ross' scoring still came within the flow of the Toronto offence although there certainly were some exceptions.
Those exceptions are indeed the intriguing part as last night we did see more nuances in Ross' offensive game than we've seen for most of the season. A few more attacks at the rim -Ross shot 10 free throws tonight, he's averaging exactly 1 per game on the season- a few more isolation attempts and you wonder if last night's performance wasn't a hint of things to come.
Obviously Masai Ujiri and his staff hope that's the case. Thanks to the horridness of the Eastern Conference, any plan of securing an Andrew Wiggins or a Jabari Parker flew out the window even before Rudy Gay was dealt, so for this club to continue its ascent in the standings, it will likely be through the development of players like Ross and Jonas Valanciunas. Call it the Indiana plan if you will and last night's contest, despite the eventual loss, sure looked like a positive step in that direction. Ross was scoring from all over the place and Big Val was banging inside, finishing with 17 points and 12 rebounds. If Ross can continue to round out his game and become a sort of Jason Richardson impact player, than suddenly this team takes another big step forward in terms of development, with Ross, DeRozan and Lowry forming a formidable threesome.
But before we get carried away with any J-Rich talk, there obviously needs to be some signs of consistency in the forthcoming games. Prior to his 51 point outburst, Ross had totals of 10 and 3 points respectively in the two previous games -one of the reasons I left him on the bench for one of my fantasy teams. Arrrrrgh!!!- so we'll see how he fares in the next stretch of contests.
Luckily he'll get a pretty good chance to show that last night was no fluke.
With DeMar DeRozan likely missing at least a couple of games thanks to last night's ankle injury, the spotlight to some degree will again be on Ross.
And we'll get to see who shows up.
Someone ala J-Rich.
Or someone more closely resembling Antoine Wright.