At times during this season, I occasionally thought the draft profiles weren’t the most appropriate content for the Blog. With Kyrie’s star rising and Varejao dominating; I asked “should more focus be placed on the present?” Those sentiments are squashed; it looks like time for both eyes to look squarely at the draft.
The Cavs roster requires bolstering…badly; the need to nail both first round picks looms large. The University of Washington recently reached the NIT final four behind two underclassmen guards: Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten. Both projected in the draft’s 18 – 22 range, if the Cavs make a trade or the Lakers’ draft position rises, the Cavs could be interested.
Standing 6’7″ and possessing a quick first step and quality leaping ability, Ross provides an immediate upgrade over the current crop of Cavs twos. Primarily a jump shooter, the sophomore also utilizes his athleticism to score in transition and making strong cuts to the basket in the half -court. With a quick shooting release, he’s improving his jumper off the dribble and squaring up around a screen. This season, he made 52% of his two-point field goals and 37% from long distance. His size, athleticism and on-court drive provide for solid defense, and of 83 shooting guards available in draftexpress.com’s database, he ranks 3rd in pace adjusted defensive rebounds per minute. He won’t be a 20 point per game scorer, but combining his athleticism, shooting and effort should find him in an NBA rotation for several years to come.
For a ceiling, Wroten has been compared to Tyreke Evans. A 6’6″, strong & speedy freshman that just turned 19 in April, he works best as an isolation scorer. He aggressively attacks the basket using his dominant left hand, possessing a vast array of ball handling and change of pace maneuvers. To some extent, his physique and frequent forays into the paint represent the extent of his strengths though. He made 16% of his three pointers and 58% of his free throws; unfortunate considering that his drives result in a lot of attempts. In addition to occasional bouts of poor shot selection, he does not take care of the ball, averaging nearly four turnovers per game.
For a further look at these players strengths and weaknesses, let’s check out some game notes.
March 20th against Oregon
In this 90 to 86 Washington victory, Ross contributed to the high scoring with 24 points on 62% true shooting. Of his 18 shots, 12 were jumpers, and he was much more effective as a catch and shoot player than off the dribble. Using 9 possessions resulted in 16 points when spotted up, off screens, or from the post. Scoring off the bounce did not provide good results; Ross ended with 4 points on 7 shots in isolation, combining drives and pull-up jumpers. Despite continuing to develop this aspect of his game, I think the results of this day are consistent with his overall performance.
Wroten finished with 22 points, 7 rebounds & 2 assists behind 52% true shooting. His playmaking style resulted in fourteen trips to the charity stripe, of which he made ten. His driving abilities were on full display, including an array of quick first strides, nifty behind-the-back dribbles, tight spins, and controlled hop-steps to get into the paint, finishing strong through contact and flashing some fancy no-look passes. Unfortunately, his poor marksmanship reared it’s ugly head, highlighted through two horribly missed jumpers (one air ball). Towards the end of the second half, OU played at least 6 feet off him, daring him to shoot.
Regarding defense, Ross and Wroten weren’t largely responsible for Oregon’s offensive onslaught. Oregon’s players 6’7″ and taller beat up on Washington’s interior players, finishing 16 of 25 from the field for half of the Ducks points. While both players made defensive miscues, the Oregon frontline dominance was not based on dribble penetration, but instead on the OU big men establishing deep post position or grabbing offensive rebounds. Oregon’s players shorter than 6’7″ netted the team’s other 43 points by shooting 15 of 44. Ross exhibited solid perimeter fundamentals and Wroten’s length and quick hands were frequently disruptive.
March 27th against Minnesota
In this tight NIT semifinal overtime loss, Ross put in 21 points on 51% true shooting alongside 6 rebounds. His pull-up jumper was much more effective, providing a respectable 8 points in 7 possessions used. Utilizing an arsenal of post moves including hook shots, turnarounds and step-thrus, he posted his second consecutive effective game in this area. As a 6’7″ shooting guard, this should be an area to also use advantageously in the NBA. Downsides included ball protection; he’s an adequate ball handler, but travelled twice, got lazy and had the ball poked away on another play, and threw one poorly conceived alley-oop. He continued to move well and get low on defense and was menacing in the passing lanes, tallying 3 steals and several tipped passes. Unfortunately though, he also tended to stray too far from his man; resulting in frequent issues effectively closing out on a jump shooter.
Wroten won’t list this tilt high on his resume, as he finished with 9 points on 16 shots, with 0 assists. The game was held at Madison Square Garden; perhaps Wroten chose not to sleep in the city that never sleeps. I counted six first half possessions where a defensive mistake resulted in a Gopher layup or dunk. Following a matador-like possession with 2:25 to go, he found his way to the bench, where he stayed until five minutes into the second half. Later, following back-to-back possessions of wild shots, he sat again, this time during six critical minutes of the game. After re-entering with less than three minutes on the clock, he made a bone-headed play with 30 seconds left in regulation and Washington trailing 59 – 57, by fouling the ball-handler 25 feet from the basket after the Gophers had run the shot clock down. The prevalence of his dominant left hand was also apparent; on seven drives where I made note of the direction he started, six went left. On one attempted finish from the right side, he brought the ball back to his left hand, directly towards the defender, resulting in an immensely more difficult shot. In isolation, he had almost no success finishing, as only one of his four field goals came this way. The other three were via transition, an alley-oop finish, and an offensive rebound. Overall, this was just not an appealing performance. He did grab three steals, using remarkably quick hands to snatch opponent’s dribbles.
Summary: Based on an early look at the likely available players, I would feel pretty good about Cleveland picking Ross around 20. He helps address the need for increased athleticism on the wing and should fill it up on the receiving end of Kyrie’s drive & kicks. Statsheet.com tracks college plus / minus data for most games; in the games recorded there, the Huskies are +161 when Ross plays, but -21 when he sits. That’s an encouraging snippet into the all around value Ross can bring. Wroten on the other hand nets a +107 on-court, compared to +35 when he rides the pine. He did just turn 19 though and is a freight train barreling into the lane. Given the Cavs’ needs, Ross certainly rates above Wroten, and that is fine with me.