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Terrence Ross of the Orlando Magic might be exactly what the Sixers need

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You remember Jimmy Butler’s debut with the Philadelphia 76ers when Terrence Ross stole the show. Ross is the guy Reid Forgrave of CBS Sports just called “the 27-year-old hyper-athletic Orlando Magic wing who is having a breakout season seven years into his NBA career.”

And Ross is a player that should at least be on the Sixers trade target list.

(And yes, I understand the humor in suggesting the Sixers consider acquiring Bryan Colangelo’s 8th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. But I’m still going to make the case).

It was recently reported by Sean Deveney that the Sixers are considering trading their first round pick to buttress their bench depth. The report named Jeremy Lin, Mike Scott, Frank Kaminsky and Noah Vonleh.

But what exactly are they looking for? Recently per WFAN’s Dave Uram, head coach Brett Brown talked about the need to add “an adult” on the wing. Few of the players named by Deveney fit the bill. But Ross might.

The Magic are currently projected for their 3rd consecutive 6th overall pick per 538.com. Trading Ross’s expiring $10.5m for a first round pick might be addition by subtraction. It would allow the Magic to avoid the unlucky honor of selecting 6th-6th-6th in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 drafts. Ross has been so good this year that parting with him for a late round pick could help them chase Zion Williamson and add the Sixers projected 26th pick. Ross would at least fit better in Philly than Mike Scott or Frank Kaminsky.

But could Ross help Philadelphia win a playoff series and better evaluate the longterm fit of their core when properly supported?

Offense

Terrence Ross is averaging a career high 13.9 points per game, 2.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and .9 steals. The Magic have asked him to occupy a higher volume role than he’s taken on in years passed with a career high 11.9 FGA’s per game and the Portland native has responded with a career high TS% of .555. In fact, he’s particularly efficient where the Sixers need help.

Per Synergy Sports Ross is 1st overall in the entire NBA in points per possession as a pick-n-roll ball handler (minimum 100 possessions) at 1.162 ppp.

Perhaps even more intriguing to the Sixers’ coaching staff is that the seven-year pro is also 3rd overall in points per possession on half-court catch and shoot plays (1.109ppp) trailing only Steph Curry and Paul George per Synergy (minimum 200 possessions).

Music to Ben Simmons’ ears.

Ross has connected on 38.2% of his 173 catch and shoot attempts from 3 point territory and 38.8% overall on his 196 total 3 point attempts this year.

He’s good off screens or spotting up. He’s good in isolations. He’s an elite cutter per Synergy. He’s even excellent at floaters.

Oh and he even just roasted Boston:

Are you sold yet? There has to be a catch, right?

The catch: defense

Well the advanced data would suggest that he has been pretty awful defensively this year.

Per Synergy Sports a few defensive percentiles this year:

  1. Overall D: 18th
  2. D vs. pick and roll ball handlers: 83rd
  3. D vs. spot up: 15th
  4. D vs. Iso: 20th

Are any of you still reading? Here me out. Defense is a little bit complicated and being on an abysmal team can make everyone look worse. The reverse is also true. Some of the areas where Ross struggles (like being out in space or when he is forced to switch onto a big and gets muscled or posted up) can be mitigated alongside free safeties like Jimmy Butler or Ben Simmons and a colossus like Joel Embiid.

In fact, Ross’s recent defensive grades per Synergy don’t look as bad as this years:

2016-2017 (Raptors, the 11th ranked defense that season)

  1. Overall D: 70th percentile
  2. D vs. Pick and roll ball handlers: 73rd
  3. D vs. spot up: 85th
  4. D vs. Iso: 63rd

2017-2018 (Magic 20th ranked defense last year)

  1. Overall D: 79th
  2. D vs. Pick and roll ball handlers: 91st
  3. D vs. spot up: 36th
  4. D vs. Iso: 82nd

That’s well above average and in some areas excellent.

That 2016-2017 year in Toronto he was actually a part of a 5 man lineup that recorded the team’s 4th best defensive rating per NBA.com (minimum 100 minutes):

The Sixers don’t have guards who can defend the point of attack and defend high screen-and-rolls and keep up with what head coach Brett Brown calls “waterbugs.”

Philadelphia has truly been a harbor in the tempest for opposing guards.

Ross is no world beater and he is no all-star. But he’s highly skilled in executing and defending a pick and roll. For high volume catch and shoot players, he has been elite. He’s a better defender than Marco Belinelli and this year, a better offensive player as well. He has defended the pick-n-roll consistently well over his last few seasons.

He recently made a swipe for a steal in a win over Boston:

Other Considerations

The Magic are rumored to “still want to make the playoffs” per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor on the The Mismatch Podcast. So they may not be prepared to move Ross. But if that were to change between today and the February 7th deadline, he should be someone the Sixers strongly consider using their own 2019 pick on (projected to be ~26th per 538.com.)

Ross as your 6th or 7th man would be a big lift to a team who can’t seem to find consistent help outside of their big guns Embiid, Butler, Simmons, and JJ Redick. The Eastern Conference seems vulnerable enough that a move like this might move the needle.

It always stings to part with the type of pick that can land a Landry Shamet (26th overall) or Jimmy Butler (30th overall) for an expiring veteran. But a player like Ross might allow the Sixers to truly evaluate how a nucleus of Simmons, Embiid, and Butler look when they have proper support.

It would hurt to let Butler walk in free agency because they didn’t win enough to convince him Philly is a good fit. And it would be terrifying to offer him a max contract without being sure it can work.

If you won enough to convince Butler to stay but struck out on a fourth star, resigning Ross to an affordable contract becomes an option.

A risky move like this might just thread and move the needle.