ORLANDO – Terrence Ross made history last year when he became the first NBA player to make at least 200 3-pointers in a season without starting in a single game. If not for the league having to pause the season, he likely would have done it again in 2019-20.
The eight-year NBA veteran drilled 162 threes in the 63 games he appeared in prior to the hiatus. That’s a per game average of 2.6 triples, meaning he was on pace to knock down 206 of them if he ended up playing in Orlando’s remaining 17 games. If he plays in all eight of the Magic’s seeding games at Walt Disney World and averages the same number of 3-pointers per game as he did before the break, Ross will end up burying around 183 of them for the entire season.
Starters and reserves combined, an argument can be made nobody was hotter after All-Star Weekend in the whole league than the 6-foot-6, 206-pounder, who averaged a Magic-best 22.2 points on 48.7 percent overall shooting and 50.6 percent 3-point shooting in those 10 games. That was substantially better than earlier in the season when he struggled to get into a rhythm. From the start of the season until Feb. 1, Ross shot just 39 percent from the floor and 32.2 percent from downtown.
“I think a lot of it to be honest was health,” Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford said about Ross’ improvement as the season went along. “Early in the year he wasn’t so injured that he couldn’t play but he wasn’t 100 percent. He’s a range shooter. He needs his legs. He needs to be balanced. The other part of it is, he receives so much special attention and he’s done a good job figuring out how to play against double teams and getting to the next action. But I would say the biggest factor is he’s healthier.”
A specific category the 29-year-old has thrived in throughout the year is scoring off screens. In fact, Ross led the NBA in total off-screen points before the shutdown. The 270 off-screen points he scored was actually 62 more than the player who finished second in this area. Brooklyn’s Joe Harris recorded 208 off-screen points. Sacramento’s Buddy Hield (200), New Orleans’ J.J. Redick (197) and Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic (196) rounded out the top five.
Golden State’s Klay Thompson led the NBA in this category each of the past four seasons.
Something else Ross has done exceptionally well is draw fouls on 3-point attempts. Only Houston’s James Harden and Atlanta’s Trae Young drew more fouls than Ross, who did it 34 times, when in the act of a 3-point try.
Led by Ross, the Magic’s bench was terrific in the few weeks leading up to the hiatus. Orlando’s reserves averaged 44.7 points over that 12-game span, sixth most in the entire league when comparing the NBA’s benches. Also during that period, and probably even more impressive, the Magic’s bench averaged 6.8 3-pointers made per game, the best mark by reserves in the NBA.
For the Magic to climb to the No. 7 seed – which means leapfrogging the Nets who currently have a half-game edge on Orlando – their bench is going to have to pick up where they left off. Clifford has said recently he may have to expand the rotation, which means more players in addition to Ross will have to step up and give the Magic productive minutes. One of them is backup point guard D.J. Augustin, who like Ross was also playing well before the hiatus.
“I’m just happy that guys are really organized right now, the way we are running our offense and playing defense and talking to each other and communicating,” he said recently about how practices are going for his squad inside the Disney campus.
Back to Ross, what are the chances he is named a finalist for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award? Most predict he will finish somewhere in the top five in voting. The two leading candidates, though, are Oklahoma City’s Dennis Schroder and the L.A. Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell. Lou Williams, Harrell’s teammate in L.A., is also in the running again. He has won the award three times in his career, including each of the last two seasons.