The Chicago Bulls are taking a swing on Dalen Terry’s upside

After taking an NBA-ready player in Ayo Dosunmu last year and despite being mocked for them to do so again, the Chicago Bulls switched gears with their first round draft pick in this years draft.

They instead 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 upside and a player whose strengths helps solidifies one of Chicago’s offseason needs.

Terry played two years with the Wildcats, averaging more than 20 minutes a game in each and was a full time starter this previous season. He helped lead Arizona to a No. 1 seed and was named on the Pac-12 All-Defense team. Terry took a leap in play from year one to year two, improving in all of his statistical categories (shooting, passing, and rebounding). At first glance, his per game numbers don’t look too good but as Ricky O’Donnell smartly pointed out, Terry’s usage was the second lowest at Arizona. This tells us that his positives come without having the ball in his hands, which is given to encourage how his usage projects on this current Bulls team. It also tells us that some of the shooting numbers may need a larger sample size in order for us to draw more concrete conclusions.

Terry is a player who can cause havoc defensively due to his wingspan and instincts. He will be another perimeter defender for the Bulls to throw at opposing backcourts. Like Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Dosunmu, he can guard multiple positions including small forwards too. Terry also projects to be a solid playmaker and terrible passer. His energy is on display when watching him and that’s always a positive for any draft pick. His athleticism also gives him tremendous upside when it comes to being able to score inside the paint.

While he can get to the rim, the rest of his offensive game needs work. There are questions about his jumper. Both when it comes to the overall mechanics and consistency. On a team where he will have space to shoot, this could be troubling if the shot doesn’t click at an NBA level. It could really hamper his offensive potential.

Let’s take a deeper look at his strengths, weaknesses, and how he can contribute to Chicago in the future.

Strengths

As noted, the defensive side is Terry’s bread and butter. His size and wingspan allows him to hound opposing defenders. He does a good job staying in front of defenders and when he does get beat or gets screened, he’s able to recover back quickly to contest. This type of skill will aid the Bulls as their defensive system relies on guards who are able to stick with their man even when they are in the paint. Terry’s wingspan also allows him to contest pretty well as he can still get a hand up even if he loses some ground before the shot is released. He is a versatile defender and the ability to guard multiple positions makes it easy for him to switch onto other players. He won’t get mismatch hunted much either. Right now he can guard both backcourt positions and with his size plus speed, he can potentially guard NBA wings as well. While he may not do it from day one, this opens up the possibility for Billy Donovan to run Terry out there in three guard lineups and not have to worry about how he matches up defensively.

Getting into the passing lanes and creating turnovers seems to be another strength of Terry’s defensive portfolio. Again, his wingspan works wonders as he can poke the ball away with ease 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 fast break going the other way. He averaged 2.3 steals per 40 minutes at Arizona including 2.5 during his final season. This will fit in very nicely on a Chicago team which bases part of their scheme on being able to turn you over on one end and before you know it, they are dunking the ball on the other. The Bulls love to run on turnovers and Terry being able to force by either jarring the ball loose or straight up picking it off mid-pass is a nice addition. Speaking of transition, Terry can fly on fast breaks and his athleticism allows him to get 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 great improvement from the previous season (2.8). Terry reads the floor well and has a wide array of passes in his arsenal to pick apart defenses. He has a nice touch on passes, putting just the right amount of weight on it so it lands right into his teammates hands. The transition passing will fit seamlessly in with Chicago as everyone is willing to push up the floor and with the high fliers the Bulls have on their teams, Terry will find them. Even if it requires a cross-court bullet pass, he can do it.

Terry can make tight pocket passes to a rolling big men or dump offs when he gets to the lane. He can pass it right over the top of defenses, whether it’s for a big who has inside positioning on their man or for a teammate who beats everyone else down the court on a transition play. He also is a good lob passer, which means he will be providing some highlights at the rim.

Having additional playmaking is always a positive and as it results in solid ball movement in search for a good shot. Terry will be able to find his teammates for open shots and it could help Chicago’s offense become less stagnant when the ball is not in the hands of their high usage guys. Now in the NBA, Terry will face tougher opponents that will be forcing him to shoot but if given the opportunity, he will make the right pass for an assist.

Speaking of his scoring, his athleticism can help him get to the rim and finish around there. He can glide around defenders and against smaller players, he can rise over them to lay it off the glass for the score. Terry has a decent handle and can get past guys with his size. Strength is a thing he has to improve on but with his measurables, he can be a guy who will play well off the ball (this is where the low usage helps) and score at the rim by either a smart cut or drive.

weakness

Simply put, it’s the lack of a jump shot. He improved by nearly four percentage points from his first to second year at Arizona but the volume was still pretty small as he only averaged 3.1 attempts per 40 minutes. While the percentages look fine, we still need to see more from him in that regard. There were times where defenses would simply leave him alone when he was out on the three-point line, which is never a positive when evaluating for how good a shooter someone is. He has hit some timely shots from three so it’s not like this is a complete negative. However, there are mechanical too. There seems to be a hitch in his jump shot and he takes a bit too long when it comes to loading up. In the NBA, he won’t have the time nor space to load up that much. There could be cases where the shot either gets blocked or he gets affected by the defender rushing at him and passes up the shot.

The inconsistency of the jump shot really makes him a tricky fit in this current Chicago offense. Right now the Bulls have two high usage players in both DeMar DeRozan and hopefully Zach LaVine. As I said when writing about EJ Lidell’s fit with Chicago, there will be limited touches for the other guys on the roster particularly the role players on the bench. While Terry has shown that he can play in a system where he has low usage and works well off the ball in terms of getting into good positions, space the floor is an important issue to fix for Chicago. His lack of ability to stretch defenses could make him a weird fit offensively whenever he’s in the lineup. He won’t crunch the floor but until he hits the shot consistently, defenses may be more than willing to let him shoot it.

This just doesn’t apply to his three-point shooting but the whole floor. Terry is solid at scoring near the rim but that’s about it offensively when it comes to creating his own shot. The mid-range game isn’t there and neither is the off the dribble shooting. This really hampers his offensive ceiling at the moment unless improvements are made. While he won’t be expected to be a major shot creator for himself in this Bulls offense, if he can’t do it at an ok clip in the future years of his career, it will really hamper his upside. Right now it will hurt Chicago in that they can’t make defenses pay for leaving him open and he can’t attack open spaces higher than the free throw line when operating in the half court.

There is also the question of strength. At the moment, there is a chance he could get pushed around by bigger guards and wings, which in turn would hurt the offensive versatility. However, this is an issue which can be fixed in offseason training.

Great upside

The Terry pick is interesting because it feels like Chicago made a pick for the future with this one. They are banking on his upside more than anything and for in the coming years, he works on his weaknesses to become a more well rounded player. Terry’s ceiling is a good starting level shooting guard maybe small forward who can guard bigger wings. This would be fantastic value for a pick just outside the lottery.

But it remains to be seen just how much he contributes next year. His skillset seems to be very raw offensively although he could be a day one guy defensively just like with Dosunmu. With that in mind, Chicago could possibly have gone a route of selecting other players with higher floors who can contribute right away as rotational pieces for a team which is currently a playoff contender. Instead they chose to take a swing on a guy who could be really solid in a few years.

The Bulls have a logjam of guards that they already have in their rotation so Terry may struggle to find minutes. However, I think there is a massive need for guys who can guard wings on this team and if they aren’t playing him from Opening Night, they will eventually have to find out if he can do that. There is a possibility they will eventually bring him into the rotation for defensive purposes. But there’s also a chance he doesn’t really contribute much during his rookie season. It also depends on how Chicago addresses their wing situation this summer. The addition of Terry should certainly not hamper their need for a wing/forward who can contribute to this team right away.

In all, there is a lot of upside with this draft pick of Dalen Terry and it’s another representation of the front office’s willingness to gamble on prospects they like for the future.

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