Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross are the Raptors' dedicated gunners - their largest contribution will always be their ability to hit that long ball worth extra points, and as a side effect their ability to spread the floor for their more paint-dominant teammates like DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph and Jonas Valanciunas.
But they started the year like this:
Before Dec 1st:
Patterson 3PT%: 34%
Ross 3PT%: 29%
Both are well down from what we've come to expect from the two, of course with Ross being much worse.
But there were good signs with Patterson and Ross - PP had the 4th best on-court net rating on the Raptors, and Ross was 6th best. Patterson in particular played very well with the stars of the team (as has been noted here many times, and yes, he should be starting). Ross didn't have the same impact on the stars but was pretty effective off the bench in terms of team scoring even as he struggled to put the ball through the hoop himself.
Patrick Patterson Since December 1st
Over the past month, these two players have improved their games in different ways.
First, Patrick Patterson. Oddly, his shooting has been worse. He's shot 29% from 3 since the start of the month. Well, I guess that in itself is not that odd - shooters go through slumps. But what makes Patterson ineffective is when he stops shooting - because then the threat of him on the perimeter can be ignored, and the paint becomes much busier and harder to navigate for the Raptors' top inside scorers. The good news? Even with his struggles hitting the shot, he took more threes in December than prior to it - up to 4.4 per game from 3.7 per game. (Though this is largely because of an increase in minutes played; it is good he is not scaling back his shooting with more minutes).
The real good news? Patterson has become even more of a positive impact player in December. He has the second highest on-court net rating among the regulars (behind only Cory Joseph). He has the second highest on-court offensive rating as well (also behind Joseph). His on-court defensive rating is the best of the regulars.
Take a look at Patterson's top lineups in December by minutes played:
Lineup | Minutes Played in Dec | Net Rating
BB - DD - CJ - KL - PP | 36 | +24
BB - DD - CJ - PP - TR | 23 | +20
JJ - CJ - PP - TR - LS | 21 | 0
DD - JJ - CJ - PP - TR | 16 | +1
DD - CJ - KL - PP - LS | 16 | +65
CJ - KL - LN - PP - TR | 16 | +39
BB - DD - JJ - KL - PP | 14 | +50
DD - CJ - LN - PP - TR | 14 | +15
Every time the guy steps on the floor, the Raptors either hold their ground or completely crush their opponent. He's involved in almost every run the Raptors have gone on for an entire month. He's not the engine - he doesn't drive the offence - but he fits. He fits the rest of the team like a glove. Especially Lowry and DeMar (note the lineups above that include both of them have net ratings of +24, +65, and +50 this month).
So, maybe the Raptors need to find him more minutes, especially in parts of the game where the Raptors struggle. To coach Dwane Casey's credit, he has found more time for Patterson, who has been averaging 28 minutes per game this month, including earlier entrances in the 1st quarter to help stem the bleeding from that horrific starting lineup. Though it is hard to say how much of that is a side effect of lost minutes to injury from Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, and DeMarre Carroll. Maybe we'll see the logical extension of those increased minutes (his introduction in the starting lineup) soon.
Terrence Ross Since December 1st
His story is much simpler. His on-court ratings have actually suffered in the past month, but largely due to him being stuck into that starting lineup for a good stretch - that will hurt anyone's rating. And he's maintained a near-neutral overall net rating (-1.1 for the month) in spite of that time in the starting lineup (-3.1 net rating for the month).
The real story with Ross is that he has rediscovered his shooting. In the past month, Ross has kept shooting at the same rate as before (in spite of his struggles last month), which is good - as his minutes increased (again due to injuries around him) his raw number of shots have gone up to over five three point attempts per game. With that increased shot opportunity, his percentages have come back in line with his career (even exceeding his averages lately).
Ross is up to 41% from long range this month, bringing his season average up to 36%. No matter what else he does, if he can bring that shooting to the lineups he is in he won't hurt the team. If he can show the focus on defence he's displayed only sporadically, he can very much help the team. But even failing that consistency on defence, if he can shoot well every night and become a threat that the defence has to cover, he should be able to break even on his bad nights and be a big boost to the team on his good ones.
But why has he shot well? He's taking about the same amount of open versus contested shots, and about the same number of shots per minute. It seems like this is simply regression to the mean with a streaky shooter, which is pretty much in line with what has been discussed here during his struggles last month - he was never going to keep shooting that poorly. He probably won't maintain his 41% either - we should see him normalize close to his current 36% (maybe a little higher, up to his career average of 37% or his average over the 2013-2015 seasons of 38%).
Have you guys seen anything in either of these two bench players' games that is different from last month?
Oh, and Patterson should start in Scola's spot. Right away.
All stats from NBA.com.