4 Raptors Storylines to Follow this Regular Season

Oct 5, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; The Toronto Raptors stand for the National Anthem prior to the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 5, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; The Toronto Raptors stand for the National Anthem prior to the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /
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Toronto Raptors
May 9, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) dunks the ball as Miami Heat forward Josh McRoberts (4) trails during the second quarter in game four of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Terrence Ross vs. Norman Powell

Terrence Ross is stepping into the first year of his three-year contract extension and it looks very tenuous. He only makes $10 million a year and after watching the contracts being handed out this year in free agency, what seemed exorbidant on the day he signed it now looks minuscule.

His jumpshot has always waxed and waned his entire career and by extension making him an inconsistent player. Although Ross possesses astounding athleticism, he shies away from contact whenever he senses danger, causing him to rely on his jumpshot. He shot 38.6 percent from range last year but it only came in spurts leading to the fan base and coach Casey to continually lose faith in him.

Now, in walks Norman Powell during DeMarre Carroll’s injury, everything the Raptors wanted in Terrance Ross but three inches shorter. Powell’s minutes continued to inflate when Dwane Casey realized Powell’s defensive versatility and shooting 40 percent from three didn’t hurt either. Powell’s defensive performance, not Ross’, continued to impress all the way through the playoffs resulting in him guarding Paul George for extended stretches. Powell, an unknown last season,took the opportunity to test his mettle, but now the team has a grasp of his skill set.

This offseason there was a visible expansion in Powell’s game, he’s a ball handler now. Coach Jama Mahlalela only had the ball in two players’ hands during summer league, Delon Wright and Norman Powell.

He was once just a spot up player, to space the floor and run the break but the team now trusts him in pick and roll situations. Powell made playmaking a point of empasis during the offseason and the staff is rewarding him not only in positions to score but to distribute the ball. Powell has also shown flashes in isolation with his baby right-left cross over into pull up which capitalizes on his speed but Ross has also made progress.

Ross, each year he’s become more and more unabashed with his tjree point attempts, sometimes to his detriment. He was too coy when he received the ball but if this preseason is any indication he’s not only been able to recognize opportunities to shoot but he’s been making those shots consistently. If Ross continues to execute his 3 point shooting it’s enough to validate his value as a legit rotational player. Ross can only perform now, he’s in a situation where only time can tell as consistency can only be established when something is done… consistent.

In my eyes Powell is already a far and away better player than Ross is today. Powell played about 14 minutes a game compared to Ross’ 24, last year because he was playing behind Ross and he just came up through the D-league. Coach Dwane Casey is a defensive coach and a traditionalist, he loves to play dual bigs and he values size tremendously. Since there will be important minutes in games where one or both players play next to 6-foot Kyle Lowry and turnstyle DeRozan defensive size is a matter that needs addressing. Powell, a tenacious defender, is undersized at his position and could be an issue when switching on the court. Terrance Ross has built equity (however not a lot) with the coaching staff throughout the years and has the size he brings defensively allows Dwane Casey to sleep easy at night.

Ross may have the initial nod with more minutes off the bench and his play as of late can serve as reinforcement but don’t be surprised if Powell chips away at those minutes as the season continues. Powell has been able to show development when Ross has largely existed as the same player for the past 3 years which doesn’t bode well when you’re trying to get more minutes than someone who is younger, cheaper and prospectively better than you.