Terrence Ross: A chance at wing redemption

Yet another great post from our draft guru, Nick Bullock. Enjoy the read!

In my last post, I explained why I think former Baylor forward Quincy Miller will likely be the Timberwolves pick at No. 18.

Although I am less than enamored with Miller, I do think he’d be the logical choice given the players I expect to be sitting there for Minny. And I have little concern Miller will be available to the Timberwolves, because he had a dreadful combine and the teams ahead of the Wolves aren’t in dire need of a small forward.

Recently, however, I have seen a couple mock drafts showing Washington swingman Terrence Ross drop to No. 18. Aside from packaging the pick in a trade, this would be my ideal scenario. (I favor Jeremy Lamb, but I expect him to be off the board between Picks 6 and 14.)

My reason for loving Ross is simple: He has a chance to be everything Timberwolves fans, and David KAAAHN, initially hoped Wes Johnson could be. He is a lights-out shooter, a great athlete, a lockdown defender and a perfect complement to Ricky Rubio.

I realize the fear I may have just instilled in all of you by comparing him to Wes Johnson, but if I’m being honest, Johnson’s skill set as advertised is a perfect fit for the Wolves. The problem was that skill set was falsely advertised.

For a shooter — and that’s all Wes is offensively — he sure misses a lot of shots. His true shooting percentage last season was 70th out of 83 qualified shooting guards. (Note: Johnson played 41 percent of the Timberwolves small forward minutes, but John Hollinger’s rankings only listed Wes as a SG).

Also, for a supposed defensive stalwart, he was rather ordinary. If Thabo Sefolosha showed us anything this post season, it’s that there is room in this league for players that contribute zero offensively if they are spectacular on the other end of the floor. Against small forwards last season, Johnson allowed his opponents to record a 15 Player Efficiency Rating (PER), according to 82games.com. That is precisely the league average. Against shooting guards last season, Johnson faired a bit better, allowing an opponent PER of 18.1. But let’s then remember that as a rookie in the 2011-2012 season Johnson played 40 percent of the team’s minutes at shooting guard, where he finished with an opponent PER of 14.3.

But enough said about Wes; this post is about Ross. Let’s address his ability to fulfill the role we once thought would belong to Wes.

Shooting: What I like about Ross’ shot is the rhythm he shows getting into his shot. He has a very simple and repeatable motion. He also uses his legs and gets good elevation, not surprising given the 37.5 inch vertical he recorded at the combine. He also has a very quick release, so he doesn’t need much room to get the shot off.

But what I like best is Ross knows he is a good shooter, so he is often looking for that open three. When he is open in the corner Ross is ready to enter he shooting motion before the ball even reaches him. All of this will make him a great spot up 3-point shooter — something the Timberwolves desperately lacked last season.

To be sure, Ross is capable of scoring in other ways, as well. He has shown a decent step-back move — which has led many an NBA shooting guard to success — and he is good at probing the baseline for easy layups. He is good coming off screens, and his athleticism also makes him quite adept at flying in for put-backs.

Defense: Ross didn’t test too well at the agility and sprint tests at the combine, and the game film tends to reflect this. He also has rather short arms (6-foot-7.25-inch wingspan), so he won’t be the kind of defender to affect shots with his length. The reason why he could be a good defender is because he is very instinctual and tenacious. He has very active hands and his timing is superb, which is part of the reason he averaged 0.9 blocks and 1.3 steals per game as a sophomore at UW. He is a lot like Ricky Rubio in this way, minus the wingspan, of course.

Team fit: Unlike some of the other two guard prospects in this draft (with the exception of Jeremy Lamb and Bradley Beal), Ross plays beautifully off the ball. We all know Rick Adelman’s desire to keep shot creators on the court. Barea, despite his skill running the pick and roll, is incapable of playing without the ball in his hands. Ridnour changed the way he played enough to fit the role, but it was a bit of a square-peg-in-a-round-hole situation, especially at the end of the game, when you know every possession will run through Rubio. The Timberwolves desperately needed someone to pair with Rubio in the backcourt at the end of games who could both slip to the basket (like Wes), hit the open three (like Ridnour), defend the position (like Martell Webster? like no one?) and occasionally take his man off the dribble.

I tend to disagree with the notion that this team needs a starter that can create his own shot. Sure, it would be nice, but only if he plays well with the Wolves’ two cornerstones, Love and Rubio. Also, when you have a passer like Rubio, why take the ball out of his hands?

Although a little slight, Ross is also tall enough to play small forward, and will probably excel in the role when the team goes small.

Negatives: It’s not, however, all sunshine and roses with Ross. He is pretty poor at creating shots for teammates. His handle is average (Wes, anyone?) often leading to turnovers when he drives. And despite his ability to slash to the basket, he averaged just 2.7 free throw attempts in 31.1 minutes per game last season for the Huskies.

But this is what you get when you pick outside of the lottery: flawed players.

At best, Ross could be a more-athletic, cheaper Aaron Afflalo or a more-talented Courtney Lee, a desired offseason target of many Wolves fans, including this one. At worst? Probably Wesley Johnson.

But that shouldn’t stop KAAAHN from making this pick if available. After all, Wes was a good fit. He was just a poor prospect. Picking Ross at No. 18 seems to me like the perfect mix of need and talent.

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