NEWARK, N.J. - As has become somewhat of a tradition, the Toronto Raptors again made an out- of-the-box call at the NBA draft on Thursday.
Unable to land a potential star, the Raptors opted for safety in the form of sophomore Washington swingman Terrence Ross with the No. 8 selection, surprising even the man himself.
“I was shocked. I found out (when) my agent told me: ‘This is you, you’re up next.’ It kind of like took my breath away,” Ross told the Toronto Sun.
“My heart started racing, I didn’t know what to expect.”
Ross had a good workout earlier this month, but the club badly wanted North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes, who has more star power but went a pick earlier to Golden State. The team’s other main targets, Dion Waiters of Syracuse and Damian Lillard of Weber State, went fourth and sixth, respectively.
“The workout in Toronto went really well for me. I did a lot of things really well, got to the basket, shot well, defended really well,” he said.
But still, he didn’t see this coming.
“I didn’t think I would go this high, but I’m happy I am. I know I can make an impact at the next level, and I’m just happy to be where I’m at,” Ross said.
Ross is a strong shooter with range from all over the court — the Raptors said coming into the draft they were eager to find shooters — and also is an excellent defender and rebounder, capable of playing either shooting guard or small forward.
Ross initially said he wanted to play shooting guard, but clarified that he knows incumbent DeMar DeRozan and believes they will complement each other.
“Playing with DeMar, he’s going to help me a lot,” Ross said. “He’s been in the league a couple of years and all of his knowledge, I’ll just soak it up and I think he’ll make me a better ballplayer. He’s the best they have and it will be really be good for me.”
Ross averaged 16.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals for the Huskies.
The impressive leaper had a simple answer when asked by NBA TV Canada what Raptors fans can expect to see from him: “Highlights.”
The team explored trading down to pick up an asset along with Ross, but a match could not be found. Phoenix, selecting 13th, was also high on him and the Raptors didn’t want to miss out after seeing their top three slip away earlier in the night.
Duke guard Austin Rivers was also under strong consideration, as well as Connecticut guard Jeremy Lamb.
The Raptors also could have taken intriguing centre Andre Drummond – potentially a top-two talent who slid to a welcoming Detroit at No. 9 — but the franchise was not comfortable with the prospect of developing both he and fellow 7-footer Jonas Valanciunas.
While opting for Ross was a bold move in some ways — Bryan Colangelo surely knew he would take some heat for selecting him before anybody expected Ross to go — it likely came with a bolder plan in mind.
The Raptors see Ross as a steady two-way starter on a competitive team, a James Posey type who will be the best perimeter defender on the squad in time as well as a steady scorer.
The perfect complement, actually, to one Steve Nash. The Raptors will make a massive push for the Canadian free agent at midnight on July 1 and Ross is part of the puzzle.
Another comparison that has been made to Ross is former slam dunk contest champion and stellar outside shooter Jason Richardson — who, coincidentally has been a fantastic fit beside Nash in Phoenix in the past.
Another key selling point for Nash is the fact Valanciunas, a potential all-star centre down the line, will also be a Raptor starting next year.
Ross is pleased he will have another rookie to go through his first year with.
“It’s going to be fun,” he said. “I know he’s going to bring a lot to the team and I’m just happy there’s going to be another guy coming with me.
“It will be scary for me to go somewhere by myself but having another rookie will help me and help him at the same time.
“We are going to learn a lot from each other and I think we are going to have a good time.”
They had better. The Raptors have quite a bit riding on their potential.
SG/SF Washington sophomore
Strengths: Good outside shooter and great mid-range shooter.
Very good rebounder.
Hard worker who puts in time to correct mistakes (dedicated to proving he can get to basket)
Plays well off of the ball.
Well above average on-ball defender.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t create his own shot well, something the Raptors need.
Only an average shooter from free throw line.
Ball-handling needs work