After taking an NBA-ready player to Ayo Dosunmu last year and despite being teased for doing it again, the Chicago Bulls switched gears with their first-round pick in of this year’s draft.
Instead, they used it on Arizona’s Dalen Terry, a sophomore who turns 20 next month. At 6’7 with a 7’0 wingspan, Terry is a prospect with high potential and a player whose strengths help solidify one of Chicago’s needs this offseason.
Terry played two years with the Wildcats, averaging more than 20 minutes per game in each and was a full-time starter the previous season. He helped lead Arizona to a No. 1 seed and was named to the Pac-12 All-Defense Team. Terry leapt through the game from first to second year, improving in all of his statistical categories (shooting, assisting, and rebounding). At first glance, his numbers per game don’t look too good but as Ricky O’Donnell cleverly pointed out, Terry’s usage was second lowest in Arizona. That tells us his positives come without having the ball in his hands, which is encouraging considering how his plans for use on this current Bulls team. It also tells us that certain numbers of shots may require a larger sample size so that we can draw more concrete conclusions.
Terry is a player who can wreak havoc defensively due to his stature and instinct. He’ll be another perimeter defender the Bulls can throw into opposing backyards. Like Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Dosunmu, he can guard multiple positions, including small forwards. Terry also plans to be a solid playmaker and excellent passer. His energy is visible when you watch him and it’s always positive for any draft pick. His athleticism also gives him a huge advantage when it comes to being able to score inside the paint.
Although he can reach the rim, the rest of his attacking game needs work. There are questions about his sweater. Both in terms of general mechanics and consistency. On a team where he will have space to shoot, it could be troubling if the shot doesn’t click at NBA level. This could really hamper his attacking potential.
Let’s take a closer look at his strengths, weaknesses and how he can contribute to Chicago in the future.
As noted, the defensive side is Terry’s bread and butter. Its size and wingspan allow it to stalk opposing defenders. He does a good job staying ahead of defenders and when he gets beaten or scouted he is able to recover quickly for the competition. This kind of skill will help the Bulls because their defensive system relies on guards being able to stay with their man even when they’re in the paint. Terry’s wingspan also allows him to contest well as he can still raise his hand even if he loses ground before the shot is released. He’s a versatile defender and his ability to hold multiple positions allows him to easily switch to other players. He won’t be hunted much either. Right now, he can guard both backcourt positions and with his size and speed, he can potentially guard the wings of the NBA as well. While he might not do it on day one, it opens up the possibility for Billy Donovan to run Terry in three guard lineups and not have to worry about how he performs defensively.
Getting into passing lanes and creating turnovers seems to be another strength in Terry’s defensive portfolio. Again, his wingspan works wonders as he can easily push the ball away whenever an opposing player is lazy with the ball in front of him. Terry can smartly anticipate passes and jump right in front of them to cause a quick break the other way. He averaged 2.3 interceptions every 40 minutes at Arizona, including 2.5 in his final season. This will fit very well into a Chicago team that bases part of their plan on the ability to turn you one side and before you know it they’re dunking the ball on the other. The Bulls love to run on turnovers and Terry being able to force by shaking the ball or picking it up halfway through is a nice addition. Speaking of transition, Terry can fly on fast breaks and his athleticism allows him to stand up for some nice dunks.
Offensively, Terry’s best attribute is his passing. He averaged 5.6 assists per 40 minutes last season with the Wildcats, which was a big improvement from the previous season (2.8). Terry reads the ground well and has a wide range of passes in his arsenal to split defenses. He has a nice touch on the passes, putting just the right amount of weight on it so he lands right in the hands of his teammates. The transition pass will fit perfectly in Chicago as everyone is ready to push the ground and with the high fliers the Bulls have on their teams, Terry will find them. Even if it requires a cross ball pass, he can do it.
Terry can close passes to a rolling big man or offload when he comes into the lane. He can get right over defenses, whether it’s a big one who has inside positioning on his man or a teammate who beats everyone on the court on a transition play. He’s also a good lob passer, which means he’ll provide some highlights at the rim.
Having extra play is always positive and translates into solid ball movement looking for a good shot. Terry will be able to find his teammates for open shots and that could help Chicago’s offense become less stagnant when the ball isn’t in the hands of their heavily used guys. Now in the NBA, Terry will face tougher opponents who will force him to shoot, but if he gets the chance, he’ll make the right pass for an assist.
Speaking of his score, his athleticism can help him get to the rim and finish there. He can slide around defenders and against smaller players he can overtake them to drop him off the glass for score. Terry has a decent grip and can outrun guys with his size. Strength is something he needs to improve on, but with his measurable metrics he can be a guy who will play the ball well (this is where low usage helps) and score on the edge either through a smart cut or by a drive.
Simply put, it’s the lack of a shot jump. He improved by nearly four percentage points between his freshman and sophomore years at Arizona, but the volume was still pretty low as he averaged just 3.1 attempts per 40 minutes. While the percentages look good, we’ve yet to see more of him in that regard. There were times when defenses would just leave him alone when he was on the three-point line, which is never a positive when assessing the quality of a shooter. He hit a few timely shots out of three, so it’s not like it was a complete negative. However, there are also mechanics. There seems to be a hitch in his jump and he’s taking a bit too long to load. In the NBA, he won’t have the time or the space to charge that much. There may be instances where the shot is blocked or he is affected by the defender rushing at him and passing the shot.
The inconsistency of the jump shot makes him a delicate element in this current Chicago offense. Right now the Bulls have two heavily used players in both DeMar DeRozan and hopefully Zach LaVine. As I said while writing about EJ Lidell’s compatibility with Chicago, there will be limited touches for the other guys on the roster, especially bench role players. Although Terry has shown he can play in a low-use system and works well with the ball to get into good positions, floor space is a big issue for Chicago. His lack of ability to stretch defenses could make him an odd fit offensively whenever he’s in the lineup. He won’t crack the ground, but until he hits the shot consistently, defenses may be more than willing to let him shoot.
This just doesn’t apply to his three-point shot, it applies to the whole floor. Terry is solid at scoring near the edge, but that’s about it offensively when it comes to creating his own shot. The mid-range play isn’t there and neither is the shooting off the dribble. It’s really hampering his offensive ceiling at the moment unless improvements are made. While he’s not expected to be a major shot-maker for himself in this Bulls offense, if he can’t make it to a good clip in future years of his career , this will really hamper his advantage. Right now that will hurt Chicago in that they can’t make defenses pay to leave him open and he can’t attack open spaces higher than the free throw line when operating in the half. ground.
There is also the question of strength. At the moment, there’s a chance he’ll be pushed around by bigger guards and wings, which would hurt offensive versatility. However, this is a problem that can be solved during off-season training.
Terry’s choice is interesting because it feels like Chicago made a choice for the future with this one. They are betting more than anything on his advantages and in the coming years he is working on his weaknesses to become a more complete player. Terry’s ceiling is a good starting level shooting guard, possibly a small forward who can guard bigger wings. It would be fantastic value for a pick just outside of the lottery.
But it remains to be seen how much he will contribute next year. His skills seem to be very raw offensively although he can be a day one guy defensively like with Dosunmu. With that in mind, Chicago might have been able to choose other players with higher floors who can contribute immediately as rotational pieces for a team that is currently a playoff contender. Instead, they chose to go after a guy who could be really solid in a few years.
The Bulls have guard blocking they already have in their rotation, so Terry may struggle to find minutes. However, I think there’s a huge need for guys who can keep the wings on this team and if they haven’t played him since Opening Night, eventually they’ll have to find out if he can. It’s possible they’ll eventually bring him into the rotation for defensive purposes. But there’s also a chance he won’t really contribute much during his rookie season. It also depends on how Chicago approaches its wing situation this summer. The addition of Terry certainly shouldn’t hamper their need for a winger/forward who can contribute to this team immediately.
All in all, there are a lot of upsides with this draft pick of Dalen Terry and it’s another representation of the front office’s willingness to bet on the prospects they like going forward.