2020 Orlando Magic Evaluations: Terrence Ross is once again the ideal sixth man

Terrence Ross caught fire to lead the Orlando Magic to a critical road win. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)
Terrence Ross caught fire to lead the Orlando Magic to a critical road win. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images) /

Terrence Ross once again showed he was the perfect sixth man for the Orlando Magic despite another disappointing end to the season for the team.

Terrence Ross had a breakout season for the Orlando Magic in 2019, averaging 15.1 points per game, shooting 42.8 percent from the field and connecting with 38.3 percent of his three-point attempts. He was the difference in several games, changing the momentum and energy in the second halves and giving the team the irrational confidence to win.

During the team’s 22-9 run to the playoffs in 2019, he averaged 17.0 points per game while shooting 39.3 percent from beyond the arc. The irrational confidence earned him “The Human Torch” nickname and placed himself as a fan favorite.

This season saw Terrence Ross establish some consistency, his numbers taking just a small dip to 14.7 points per game, shooting 40.3 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from three.

Per Game Table

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Generated 9/9/2020.

Playoffs Per Game Table

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Generated 9/9/2020.

His reduced three-point percentage is perhaps the most concerning as his attempts only jumped up slightly. He also played nearly a minute more at 27.4 minutes per game, a lot of game time for someone coming off the bench.

Steve Clifford does not see Terrence Ross as a starter, Evan Fournier instead being trusted at the shooting guard position even during his postseason struggles for Orlando. But despite not being a starter, the impact Ross has on this team must not be understated. He is essentially a starter and finishes games, coming up with several clutch shots.

The 29-year-old’s game is perfectly adapted to being a sixth man.

Ross enters the game at important times and regularly provides a much-needed scoring boost to push his team forward, often playing a key part of the victories Clifford’s team picks up.

Ross in an instinctive shooter, something the Magic have a real lack of at this moment in time. His first thought when he gets the ball is how he can get a shot off and his ability to create his own shot is valuable to a team that lacks strong shooters.

According to statistics from Basketball Index, Ross shot 38.9 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, in the 69th percentile in the league. Impressive for his volume of those shots.

That part is important because of his gravity as a 3-point shooter. Teams changed how they defend the Magic when Ross is in the game. Opponents trail him and do their best to discourage his quick-trigger shooting or get him to go shallow and avoid 3-pointers.

According to Basketball Index, Ross ranks in the 95th percentile or above in every measure of gravity the stat uses (courtesy of Nylon Calculus). For a team without much shooting gravity, this is an immeasurable impact. Teams simply could not leave Ross open.

His ability to make shots from deep was on perfect display in a narrow defeat to local rivals the Miami Heat in March. Despite not helping his side to a win on this occasion, Ross was unstoppable and made eight of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc in a 35-point display.

“The Human Torch” averaged 22.8 points per game in the month of March before the regular season was cut short due to COVID-19. The Magic as a team had got into a good rhythm before the season stopped, winning three in a row and Ross was playing his best individual basketball of the season.

Just a few days earlier he had knocked down 33 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves, going 7 for 15 from three and 13 for 25 overall.

His offensive ability is of significant importance to this team. Having someone who can come off the bench and regularly hit 15 to 20 points is very valuable.

He also has a talent for drawing fouls when shooting beyond the arc to send him to the line, something he displayed in the 4-1 first-round playoff series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Ross regularly catches and immediately gets a shot off when under pressure from opposition defense to draw a foul and is an excellent free-throw shooter, knocking down 85.3 percent of his regular-season attempts.

Apart from a bizarre scoreless game against the Philadelphia 76ers when the season resumed on the NBA Campus, Ross was able to almost pick up where he left off. He hit 25 against the Sacramento Kings in the second game back when things were looking encouraging for the Magic before Jonathan Isaac’s injury was then followed by five straight defeats.

2020 Orlando Magic Player Outlook: Terrence Ross. light. Related Story

While Orlando needed bigger contributions from some of their players against the Bucks in the playoffs, most notably fellow shooting guard Fournier, Ross did exactly what was needed of him.

He hit 18 in their win to open the series despite not making a three and posted scores of 20 and 19 in games three and four respectively when the Magic needed a victory to keep the series alive.

When others struggled Ross showed he has what it takes in the big games.

So why isn’t he a starter? Fournier’s problems during the restart and playoffs led many fans to ponder why he could not line up in a starting backcourt with Markelle Fultz.

But a coach’s job is to use his players in a way that will maximize their benefit to the team. Clifford has done that with Ross. Much like Lou Williams with the LA Clippers, Terrence Ross’ undeniable scoring ability is perfectly utilized in short bursts while he is not exposed as much defensively when coming off the bench.

Ross is not a bad defender. His defensive numbers are respectable. His ability to get steals and play passing lanes is quietly near the elite of the league.

But his game revolves around his offensive impact first and foremost. Allowing him to come off the bench against another second unit presents him with more opportunities and puts less emphasis on his defense. On a team which has too much defense and not enough offense, maximizing his scoring has to be the priority.

B+. . G/F. Orlando Magic. TERRENCE ROSS

This season has not been without difficult moments for Ross. On occasions, he was guilty of having off nights such as four-point, 2-for-11 games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks in January as well as a five-point, 2-for-12 showing against the Detroit Pistons in February.

But more often than not Ross fulfilled his role as the go-to guy off the bench for the Magic and spark for a sometimes anemic offensive team.

His offensive numbers may have taken a slight dip this year but despite a few bad games which dragged his scoring average down, the 29-year-old once again proved his worth to the franchise as a sixth man.

While brainstorming will undoubtedly be underway in the front office as to how to improve the team and push it past its current mid-conference position, one area they do not have to worry about is at sixth man. But for the Magic, they must continue to hope that Ross is content with his role within the team.

Pushing his three-point percentage back toward the 40 percent mark should be a target for Ross next season. His shooting beyond the arc was valuable this season but in a team that lacks shooters, someone that can knock down threes near to a 40 percent rate could be the difference between the Magic pushing past their current position.

Ross has shown his consistency with two straight seasons at around a 15-points-per-game average. With his offensive skill set, there is no reason why he cannot push his average even higher next season but his primary focus must be on once again producing the numbers he has done already for Orlando.

Next. Evaluations: Markelle Fultz shows promising signs. dark

Ross is not untouchable given the franchise wants to move forward but if trade options are to be explored, his value cannot be understated or forgotten.