Terrence Ross Has Captured the Imagination of Toronto Raptors Fans

James BorbathContributor IJanuary 2, 2013

Dec 21, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Raptors guard Terrence Ross (31) during their game against the Orlando Magic at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Magic 93-90. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Terrence Ross has captured the imagination of a lot of Toronto Raptors fans. The main reason is his ability to make the highlight reel on any given night. Here is some proof (the video below) from a recent matchup with the Orlando Magic with a couple dunks that will get you out of your seat.

Ross had perhaps his best performance as pro to kick off 2013 for the Raptors against the Portland Trailblazers. Ross had a career-high 26 points and made six three-pointers in just under 25 minutes as part of that. He also had a couple of steals and did a little bit of everything in a 102-79 win over Portland.

He has played a role in the Raptors' streak as of late, winners of eight of their last nine basketball games.

If you are not old enough to have seen the first season of Vince Carter, you probably are more impressed with Terrence Ross and his dunking skills. Those who witnessed the birth of “Vinsanity” in Toronto may have a different perspective on things. Tracy McGrady, in his early days in Toronto, could also amaze in an instant as well.

Even DeMar DeRozan, in my personal view, is a more talented dunker, but it is a matter of opinion. If you can dunk the basketball in the NBA and do it with flair and style, you will grow your fanbase (that goes without saying).

Raptors fans want to see Terrence Ross end up in the Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend. The Raptors have had more representation there over the years than in the postseason as a team. Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Jamario Moon and DeMar DeRozan (twice) have all taken part. Vince Carter is the the only one in the group to have won the title of slam dunk champion with an awe-inspiring performance in 2000.

Whether Ross does or doesn’t end up in the contest really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of his development. The Slam Dunk Contest has become watered down and really is not what it use to be in terms of the level of players involved.

What does matter is Terrence Ross has been able to take advantage of some injuries the Raptors have had and has earned a position in the rotation.

Heading into the 2012-13 NBA season, Ross was basically overshadowed by the Raptors' draft pick from the prior season’s draft, Jonas Valanciunas. He was a starter on opening night and Ross was barely a part of the Raptors' rotation. Jonas has not been terrible, but now that he's out with a broken finger, the spotlight is there for Ross to step into.

Ross has perhaps a more complete skill set than even Vince Carter did in his first season. This is not to suggest he is better than Carter or even close to the dominate force that Carter once was during his time in Toronto. Terrence Ross isn’t that, and quite frankly, he may never be that. That said, he is a solid defender and has better range than Carter did as a rookie.

He clearly compliments the skills lacking in DeMar DeRozan with his defensive ability and three-point shooting skills. Both lack one key skill that needs to improve, and that is passing. This is more true for Ross, who has struggled to pass the ball at times.

Dwane Casey and his defense-first mentality would seem to be a good fit for Ross. Aside from the flashy dunks and the signs of being a solid three point shooter is his career it will be his defense that will solidify his position.

Ross still has a ways to go, but you can’t blame Raptors fans for getting a bit of ahead of the game about his future. Their opinions on Ross may be out of whack, in relation to where he actually is at this point in his career. Still, the base is there for him to be a solid contributor for years to come.

Is he ready to be a starter? No, he isn’t, but he doesn’t really have to be. He could play a role on this team that is similar to the one Morris Peterson did for years as a Raptor. While fans may want him to be the next Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady, that is setting the bar far too high. He is a player that can be part of a good team but may not be dynamic enough to carry a team.

Peterson started his career as a player coming off the bench that could add a spark. He could make three-pointers, played solid defense and was never afraid to take one on the numbers to draw a charge. He could also pull off his own set of highlights with trick shots and unexpected, unbelievable makes. Who could forget this miracle back in the day?

Terrence Ross needs to work on being consistent at his craft. What he can learn from DeMar DeRozan is to develop the same type of work ethic that DeRozan has displayed. The idea of Ross being a replacement to DeRozan down the line is not really one that makes a lot of sense. The two players should actually compliment each other pretty nicely moving forward.

Ross started to emerge when the Raptors were struggling, but to his credit, he has continued to play a role with the team as they have continued to improve their play. Being a contributor to a team that's winning, even if it is to lesser extent, is far more important and impressive.

Jonas Valanciunas and his ultimate development is still a bigger part of the Raptors' overall puzzle. Terrence Ross has taken advantage of the added attention to his development and made the most of it. Injures are never good things for any team, but they do provide opportunities for others to step up and perform. If Landry Fields and Alan Anderson hadn't gone down, would Ross ever have had this big of a chance to learn, grow and develop?

The answer is probably not. He has had that chance, though, and has been able to make the most of it. He truly has become a focus of attention for Raptors fans and is starting to provide some highlights on a more consistent basis.  

The Raptors raised a lot of eyebrows by selecting Ross as high as they did at the No. 8 spot in the draft. Many were thinking that a pick of Austin Rivers might have been the direction to go. Ross, in comparing him to what the Raptors could have picked, is doing a solid job validating the pick.

Winning that debate is really the first step to make for Ross. It is far too soon to compare him to past Raptor greats, or even to DeMar DeRozan.

Still, all this rational talk is not what Raptors fans care to hear when Ross is about to make something happen that will make them jump out of their seats. Terrence Ross, if nothing else, can be fun to watch for even the most jaded folks.

I have always been cautious to jump to conclusions about Ross. He is starting to make a believer out of me, as he has with many others far sooner than me. The hype is starting to be justified and the performance is starting to live up to the hype.

I still don’t think Ross is going to be a superstar, but he has all the skills to be a very good to great NBA player. He is just starting to scratch the surface of showing that consistently