The online chatter about the Dallas Mavericks having interest in a certain soon-to-be Orlando Magic free agent has come in waves over the last season-plus. That player isn’t eight-year wing Terrence Ross. But maybe it should be?
Ross, who is coming off his best season in the league, is hitting a crowded free agent pool this summer and will look to cash-in after showing his ability to be a key reserve wing on an NBA playoff team.
Terrence Ross has mostly filled the role of reserve wing — both in Toronto, who selected him 8th overall in the 2012 draft, and in Orlando, where he was traded two and a half seasons ago in the Serge Ibaka deal. For the first six seasons of his career, whether as an occasional starter or in a key bench role, Ross provided his team pretty steady if not eye-popping production: averaging 10 points, three rebounds and an assist, while shooting 37 percent from three in 24 minutes per game.
This season Ross has been impressive, posting averages of 15 points, 3.5 rebounds, two assists and a steal in 27 minutes per game (while shooting 38 percent from deep). Whether Ross has taken another step forward while he enters the core of his prime or just exceeding expectations in a contract year remains to be seen. Either way, as he finishes up a three year $31-million deal, Ross will likely be pursued as a top-heavy wing market clears up.
Ross’ biggest asset is his three point shot. Shooting above league average all the way around the perimeter, the 6’7, 206-pound wing has shown an ability to be a reliable threat. Last season he connected on nearly 39 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts, which is how he got the majority of his looks. And he did so while having to shoulder a pretty large offensive load for a reserve shooter. His usage (23.9 percent) is by far the highest of his career.
Ross took the majority of his three point attempts above the break, where he shot 38 percent. He was not utilized as much in the corners, which could be an untapped weapon in his arsenal since he was a lethal 45 percent on just around 60 attempts.
The man they call “The Human Torch” also favored the right side of the floor in the mid-range, where he once again was above league average (connecting on over 46 percent of shots at the line and to the right).
It’s this skillset that’s going to earn Ross his next contract, his first go round in free agency, and probably his last sizable contract of his career.
While reliable three point shooting can be hard to come by, making what Ross provides valuable, he can be a little one dimensional. Offensively, Ross won’t provide much playmaking or ball handling. His numbers around the rim are average at best, and most teams aren’t looking for a bench scorer to hoist mid-range jumpers. And there should be some questions if his uptick in scoring this season was due to just sheer volume.
He also won’t be lockdown defender on the wing. Ross averaged a steal per game over the last three seasons, but doesn’t have the tools to be put on an opponent’s key scorer. With a career defensive rating of 109 per 100 possessions, it’s unlikely he develops those skills now.
Finally, Ross suffered an MCL sprain last season that caused him to miss almost the entire season. Credit to Ross for putting in a lot of work last summer to get his body right, and to be in stellar shape entering this season. Still, there should be some reservation that this season’s production stemmed from the cliched “contract year”, and that his numbers may regress some next year.
Fit with the Mavericks
Anyone watching the back half of this season in Dallas should be able to tell you they are hurting for three point shooters. Until the Mavericks front office is able to secure more reliable shooters there will be a part of Luka Doncic’s game that is locked up. He needs more guys to kick to out of the pick and roll — his vision and accuracy went underutilized for most of the season. Enter a player like Terrence Ross.
He really is fit best as a gunner off the bench, even though he has plenty of experience as a starter (which the Mavs will be searching for this summer). There’s a scenario where the Mavericks could put him alongside Jalen Brunson and restricted free agent Dorian Finney-Smith to form a perimeter trio that could compliment each other in key ways. As mentioned earlier, Ross hasn’t put up a ton of threes from the corner recently — playing with Doncic, a corner three generating wizard — could be a boon for both players careers.
The wing free agent market is top heavy, after several marquee names there is a decent drop-off. But teams will have money to spend, so don’t expect a player like Ross to last terribly long after the Kawhi Leonard’s and Kevin Durant’s of the world make their decisions. The Mavericks need starter-level players to add to the roster, and Terrence Ross might be a fringe candidate they consider.