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NBA Draft 2014 scouting report: LaQuinton Ross brings scoring ability, still raw talent

LaQuinton Ross is one of the more intriguing prospects in this upcoming NBA Draft, and could be a steal with his ability to score from outside over defenders and the athleticism to get into the paint. But can he hone his raw talent to achieve his full potential?

Elsa

Coming off of a sensational finish to his sophomore year, expectations were high for LaQuinton Ross to explode during his junior year at Ohio State. At times, fans were treated to what they expected, especially later on in the season, but for the most part, Ross struggled to be the consistent offensive threat that the Buckeyes so desperately needed, perhaps relying too much on raw talent at times. Through the course of the 2013-2014 season, Ross averaged 15.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, but also showed what made him such a threat on the offensive side, combined with sometimes improved efforts on the defensive end.

Strengths

Shooting ability: Ross is a bit lanky at the small forward position despite checking in at 6'8, 220 pounds. On the court, Ross' long arms (7'2 wingspan) help him shoot over top of smaller defenders which might not fly in the NBA, but there's confidence he can adjust accordingly. From three-point range, Ross shot 35 percent on the season, which isn't elite certainly, but it's not bad, either. Normally, players with that sort of percentage end up being average three-point shooters in the NBA at best, so it's still a plus for Ross at the next level, considering it's one of the stronger aspects of his game. If he can prove to be a legitimate threat from outside, it will open up lanes for him to drive past defenders.

Size/length: As previously mentioned, Ross fits the mold well for the NBA with his size and especially his length. Though he never actualized his potential, they don't grow on trees in the NBA-made mold like Ross. Since he is a capable shooter, defenders usually have to charge at Ross when they see him spotting up for a jump shot. This allows Ross the space to drive by them after a ball fake.

Doesn't need to be the guy: What I mean by this, is that Ross was given the reins on offense at Ohio State after the Buckeyes lost DeShaun Thomas to last year's draft (now in Europe; rights held by the Spurs). When Ross came off the bench while Thomas started, he shot better (almost 39 percent from three-point range) and could provide a spark once Thomas was off the floor. When he's not the main threat on offense, Ross actually becomes quite dangerous (and quickly), with both the ability to shoot outside and drive to the basket, making him a valuable asset for a team with a proven scoring threat (see Thomas on the floor below against Arizona, how Ross takes the ball and is able to sink the game-winner).

Rebounding: Ross has proven that he can give the energy to go after rebounds, as evidenced by his 5.9 rebounds per game, making him a good energy guy that can keep possessions alive on offense and still grab boards on the defensive side as well. With his size, Ross has an advantage over some of the players at the same position in this draft.

Weaknesses

Maturity: Ross found himself in multiple on the court altercations last season. Additionally, he almost never took charge of games as often as you'd like. He won't have to do the latter at the NBA level, but he'll need to keep his emotions in check and/or have a strong support system to ensure he develops and grows into the player and person he's capable of.

Creativity on offense: Despite being described as a scorer, the fact of the matter is, Ross isn't much of a creator on offense as you'd hope. If he gets the ball in his hands, there's a high probability that he's going to try and score if he has an open look. If not, he'll pass it off to a guarded teammate or simply settle for a much tougher shot. With being a below average scorer in the paint (aforementioned settling for tough shots) Ross will need to be much more versatile in how he scores and when to take shots.

Getting teammates involved: This weakness could largely be in part because of the offensive burden Ross had to face while with Ohio State. Without another scoring option, Ross shouldered the load best he could, even if that meant not involving his teammates. Ross averaged less than one assist per game, a pretty alarming number, despite the duties of being the priority scoring option. That means on just six percent of his possessions this season, Ross was able to help create a play for his teammates, totaling just 47 assists in 1,676 career minutes, or one every 36 minutes he's on the floor. Hopefully with better talent awaiting him in the NBA, he'll be able to see more open teammates that can score as well.

Still sub-par defensively: There's still quite a bit of potential left to fill for Ross when it comes to defense. Since he was one of the tallest players on the court, Ross often times found himself assigned to the opposing team's bigs, where he was usually matched with someone much stronger than him in the post. Against guards or small forwards, Ross improved steadily from his sophomore to junior year, but still had trouble against smaller guards that could move past Ross, taking advantage of his underachieving lateral quickness. There's still time to improve, though, as in the NBA, Ross will go against the same sort of players he was improving against. Working with the right staff could fix this up sooner rather than later.