Damon Stoudemire, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter. In the Toronto Raptors’ first few seasons in the NBA, it seemed as though they couldn’t miss with their first-round selections.
Since then Canada’s only NBA team has been inconsistent with its draft picks, missing completely with the likes of Michael Bradley, Joey Graham, and of course, Rafael Araujo.
In 2012, University of Washington swingman Terrance Ross, who the team selected with the eighth pick of the NBA draft, hopes he can one day join the earlier list of successful selections.
Dwane Casey,Toronto’s head coach, has been a fan of Ross well before he became a Raptor. The defensive-minded Casey made the trip down to Washington during the league’s lockout last season.
“I called my staff back inTorontoand said, ‘hey, this kid at the University of Washington can really play. We’ve got to keep an eye on him,’” said Casey.
One thing is clear heading into the 2012-13 season: the Raptors will be placing more emphasis on the defensive side of the basketball. In his first season with the club, Casey has turned a group that was often criticized for lack of defence, into one of the league’s better squads without the ball.
The 6-foot-7 Ross averaged 15.3 points and 31 minutes as a sophomore and his shooting poise was the final selling point. The sharpshooter impressed during the Summer League in Las Vegas with his “high motor.”
“He’s been our hardest working guy in the Summer League,” Casey said.
Ross will battle for minutes against another former first-round pick that came with high hopes to fill the void at small forward. DeMar DeRozan is heading into his fourth year as a pro, and saw a minor dip in his point per game this past season – perhaps presenting an opportunity for Ross.
With players like Ed Davis and Amir Johnson playing more of a defensive role, Ross could step into an inviting situation off the bench for this young Raptors team.Toronto also traded away Leandro Barbosa, who often provided a change of pace from the bench for the team. Barbosa’s departure could give Ross the opening to fill the sixth-man role.
General manager Bryan Colangelo had a busy off-season, a regular occurrence during his tenure with the team. The trigger-happy Colangelo has never proven to be the patient type. After failing to lure two-time MVP Steve Nash to the Raptors in off-season, the Raptors quickly acquired point guard Kyle Lowry from the Houston Rockets.
Raptors fans will have to familiarize themselves with a few more new names. Former Knick guard Landry Fields and fellow rookies Quincy Acy, along with last year’s fifth-overall pick Jonas Valanciunas will provide the Raptors more depth.
Ross could excel with this youthful squad and will be given every opportunity to battle for playing time.
Raptors fans, however, may have to be patient. Ross is only 21-years-old, but his scoring potential could excite a restless fan base which has stood by years of losing.