A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

DeMar Derozan vs. Terrence Ross and evaluating wings in the modern era

with 2 comments

DeMar Derozan and Terrence Ross are believed to be in a different place as Raptors. Derozan is a cornerstone of the franchise after making the all-star team in 2013-2014 and leading them statistically in the playoffs. Ross has been inconsistent statistically and now in trade rumours. Some believe trading Ross for a veteran SF is the best way for the Raptors to come closer to legitimate contention.

Under conventional wisdom Derozan being considered the “keeper” of these two would not be debated.  However I believe the case for keeping Terrence Ross of the two is legitimate.

DeMar Derozan is averaging 18.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game to 10.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists for Terrence Ross. However Derozan’s .49 TS% and 102 ORTG show he is inefficient at scoring and using possessions. Ross at .521 TS% and 104 ORTG is mediocre efficiency.  The difference between them in efficiency is compounded by Derozan using many more possessions than Ross. A standard possessions calculation of (FGA + .44*FTA + 2.1) has Derozan at 20.8 possessions per game to 10.7 possessions for Ross. Derozan’s inefficiency is a bigger problem not only because of a lower TS% and ORTG but because he uses more possessions at this negative rate.

There are two ways to defend Derozan’s stats. First is that he had a significantly bigger season last year at 22.7 points per game, .532 TS% and 110 ORTG whereas this season he’s had to work his way back from injury. However his November statistics before his injury of 19.7 points on .503 TS% and 104 ORTG are still a decline from his rate last season. In addition the rest of Derozan’s career reflect output closer to this season than 2013-2014. In his 2nd, 3rd and 4th season preceding his all-star year, he averaged between 16.7 and 18.1 points per game and between 100 and 106 ORTG. The larger sample size suggests his all-star 5th season could end up the outlier.

The second way to defend his statistics is to claim a high volume scorer takes pressure off his teammates. The Raptors having high volume guards like Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan and Lou Williams, allows players like Patrick Patterson, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, James Johnson to take a lower volume of shots but covert them at an excellent efficiency. If forced into facing the full attention of the defense it’s likely players like Patterson, Johnson, Valanciunas and Johnson would be forced into taking more heavily guarded shots and their efficiency would fall. In addition to this during Derozan’s injury the Raptors had a heavy slide on the defensive end. This suggests Derozan’s high volume usage taking pressure off his teammates offensively could help them conserve more energy for the defensive end. Therefore it can be argued the real value of Derozan’s season as a high volume scorer who takes pressure off his teammates is not captured in statistics.

However although Terrence Ross is not a high volume scorer who takes pressure off his teammates, Ross has a different advantage over Derozan. Derozan is a poor 3 point shooter at 21.4% on 1.4 attempts a game while Ross shoots 36.8% from 3 on a team leading 4.7 attempts a game. Ross came into the league known as a shooting specialist and in his sophomore season averaged 39.5% from 3 on 5.0 attempts a game to help establish his reputation. Therefore the respect for Terrence Ross from 3 point range makes him a floor spacer and dragging a defender out to the 3 point line should help the Raptors score on drives or on the paint. Furthermore because he takes less shots this should help the Raptors ball movement to the open man more than Derozan who more deliberately needs more plays designed around his isolation skills.

Both Derozan and Ross has a “secondary” value of either volume scoring or floor spacing that makes their teammates more efficient. There isn’t a conclusive way to determine which one is more valuable. However I do believe the “primary” value of Ross using 10 possessions a game at a league average efficiency is more valuable than Derozan using 20 possessions a game at a clearly below average efficiency, therefore to me Ross has something of a head start before deciding whether their volume scoring or spacing is more valuable.

There are other ways to impact the game. Both are similar rebounders with Derozan averaging 4.6 total rebounds per 36 minutes to 4.4 for Ross and defensively they are hard to pick out. Ross has faster feet as the more dynamic athlete however Derozan has a strength advantage and plays a steadier, headier game on defense. Derozan is more experienced therefore if he has a defensive advantage right now Ross could catch up in a few years. Derozan is a quality passer at 3.5 assists per per 36 minutes to 1.3 for Ross, however Derozan turns the ball over 2.3 times per 36 minutes to 1.2 for Ross. In the stat ORTG where Ross had an edge at 104 to Derozan’s 102 assists and turnovers were accounted for in overall possession efficiency.

I do not know whether Terrence Ross is a better player than Derozan right now because I can’t quantify the value of their spacing and volume scoring against each other. But I believe there is at least a strong case that Ross is as valuable or more. It isn’t a “no brainer” in favour of Derozan.

If one rated them as close in current production, what could settle it is their salary situation. Derozan is very likely to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016. He has a player option for the 2016-2017 season for his 10.1 million salary, which is a bargain now before considering the salary cap is likely to explode in the summer of 2016 because of the new TV deal. This will lead to a surplus of capspace that most teams can’t spend all on quality players and thus a bidding war for players in demand like Derozan. If Derozan becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2016 he could very well get a max deal breaking 20 million a season that summer. Furthermore the Raptors all but can’t extend him this summer. Derozan is limited to a 107.5% raise of his 10.1 million salary, which only amounts to 10.9 million. Considering what a raise he is due in 2016 it doesn’t make sense for him to even consider this extension.

Terrence Ross would be a restricted free agent in 2016 if not extended by then. Like Derozan the new TV deal could lead to an inflated contract for him. However although the league is becoming more analytics friendly and wise to the value of floor spacers, I have a hard time believing he’d demand the size of contract that an established all-star with a high points per game like Derozan would. Secondly the odds of the Raptors extending Ross this summer are higher. Although he may want to wait until 2016 to try for a large offer sheet he could also opt for the security of a sizeable post-rookie deal as a player who’s struggled to find his statistical footmark so far. Utah shocked everyone last summer when they gave Alec Burks a 10.5 million a season, 4 years/42 million contract. They were banking on both his improvement and 10 million a year looking like 7 or 8 million a year does now once the new TV deal kicks in. If the Raptors offer Terrence Ross a similar 10 or 11 million a year extension under the same presumption of paying for improvement and paying a new TV deal price it may be hard for him to turn down. This is in addition to the advantage of if Ross gets to the summer of 2016 unsigned, the Raptors will have the ability to match any offer sheet for him.

When considering these salary reasons and considering he is the younger/more inexperienced player, of the two I would keep Terrence Ross over DeMar Derozan.

Written by jr.

February 16, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. While 2 years ago this may not have been the case, put simply, Demar Derozan over TRoss is a legitimate no brainer. I realize that the stats don’t necessarily bear that out, but there are a lot of things missed in the stats you cited.
    Biggest one is the simple eye test. Derozan is an elite player, plain and simple. Terrence Ross is not. Watch 10 raptors games start to finish and this is blindingly obvious. I am not trying to be obtuse or argumentative here – I entirely see your point with the stats you’ve cited – I just want to make the point that the picture painted by them is wildly inaccurate. Even last year, I hoped that Ross could comfortably replace DeRozan, who I saw as deeply flawed. That possibility is dead (actually, it was never there, but hindsight is 20:20).
    Things not caught in those statistics:
    1) Demar is a substantially better player every year. He does not have an offseason, and every year at training camp he is vastly improved. Incredible work ethic. Ross simply doesn’t have that.
    2) While the numbers make it look like Ross is a better, or at least equal player offensively, the numbers lie. Most of Ross’ shots are open. He has actually developed a nice 2-dribble pull-up game this year (and his jump shot is silky smooth) he avoids contact like Boris Diaw avoids salad. Demar is doubled inside the 3-point arc constantly. He is game-planned for. If you were to give Terrence Ross those shots and minutes his numbers would plummet. Demar isn’t a perfect offensive player by any means, but the gulf between he and Ross is vast.
    3) demar can actually defend his position (Ross can occasionally play lockdown defence – something demar will likely never be able to – but only on guys much smaller than him. He gets destroyed on screens, and often looks disinterested)


    February 17, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    • I agree with a lot of what you said about Derozan having an extra impact by drawing multiple defenders as a high volume scorer and that Ross couldn’t be a high FGA scorer like him. However I believe Ross’ floor spacing advantages could be just as impactful as the extra attention Derozan draws. Because floor spacing is mostly invisible that’s also why I don’t trust the eye test in this case. To me attracting multiple defenders is the main advantage Derozan has over Ross but I see two other advantages in Ross case in spacing the floor and scoring more efficiently. So Derozan needs that extra value of attracting extra defenders to keep pace and make it conceivable he’s better than Ross, to me.

      It’s possible Derozan’s high volume scoring has a greater positive impact than Ross spacing the floor and scoring more efficiently, or that Derozan is more valuable to some teams and Ross is to others. I am a big enough proponent of floor spacing that I personally believe it’s at least “close”. I am not saying Ross is for sure better than Derozan I am just saying I think it’s a lot closer than the media believes, one way other the other, and in that case I’d lean towards the cheaper long term option

      As for Derozan’s defense as a Raptors fan who’s watched most of the games this year his D has looked better. However Ross guards SFs which has never gone well for Derozan in the very very few times in his career he’s tried, so it’s hard to make a direct comparison.


      February 17, 2015 at 6:50 pm

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