Dalen Terry flashes his playmaking potential, but the Chicago Bulls guard’s poor shooting remains a concern

16 July 2023

The first three games of the NBA Summer League have created more questions than answers for the Chicago Bulls when it comes to finding a fit for 2022 first-round draft pick Dalen Terry.

After averaging only 5.6 minutes in 38 games as a rookie, Terry’s goal this season is obvious: get on the court. That campaign began last week in Las Vegas, where Terry was labeled the leader of a young Bulls group competing in the annual summer tournament.

Summer league didn’t get off to the start Terry hoped for — even before he reached Las Vegas. Terry suffered a collision to the face in the Bulls’ final practice before departing, which he later told reporters resulted in a broken nose.

Although the injury wasn’t considered serious, the Bulls medical team asked Terry to wear a protective mask during summer league games. That lasted all of one quarter before Terry ditched it.

“My peripheral wasn’t the best, it was kind of messing me up,” Terry told the media. “I’m a player. I play with what I want to play with.”

This slightly cavalier approach is on brand for the 20-year-old guard, who is eager to embrace challenges — but still struggling to hone his talents enough to earn regular minutes.

All of the strengths that make Terry an exciting player also feed the detriments that have kept him from a regular role. He’s jittery and unpredictable. His hands and feet move a little too fast. Terry is an explosive athlete who charges readily into contact but lacks finesse to create space and finish off plays.

For this reason, Terry has looked his best in summer league when setting up his teammates. He has 12 assists in three games, including five in Tuesday’s 107-99 victory against the Sacramento Kings. His vision in transition is sharp, rocketing passes to teammates on the other end of the floor.

This playmaking is a/ marked improvement for Terry, whose court vision often seemed overwhelmed by the speed of the NBA when he got on the floor last season.

But passing isn’t enough for Terry to carve out a heavier load this season. Although his playmaking continues to improve, Terry clearly isn’t the answer at point guard on the first or second team — and his impact is diminished when he’s asked to be a scorer.

Since the day he was drafted, Terry’s awkward shot has been his greatest barrier to entering the rotation. He shot 47.7% from the field in his one season at Arizona, then hit 44% (1.9 attempts per game) as a rookie and 25.9% (0.7 attempts per game) from 3-point range.

Summer league has done little to quell these concerns. Terry went 11-for-42 (26.2%) from the field in the first three games. He was the lowest-scoring starter Tuesday with four points on 2-for-7 shooting and has been regularly outpaced by Javon Freeman-Liberty, who scored 28 against the Kings.

Terry’s shot mechanics always have been slightly unwieldy, hiccuping in the middle to create little confidence in his jumper from any area of the court. This hitch has appeared somewhat smoothed out in summer league, but the efficiency has yet to follow.

Terry’s scoring is further diminished by his lack of improvement with the ball in his hands, which prevents him from creating separation or getting to the rim for higher-percentage looks.

This lack of offensive firepower has been offset, as always, by Terry’s defensive prowess. Even on his off shooting nights, Terry has consistently been the Bulls’ best defender in summer league. He has locked down first-round draft picks such as Gradey Dick, snagged steals at the top of the key and deflected passes to disrupt offensive flow.

The Bulls selected Terry for these defensive abilities. But defense alone wasn’t enough to get him onto the court as a rookie. The key to breaking that trend in his second season will be to reduce his offensive liabilities.

The Bulls finished fifth in the league in defense last year, and additions such as former Milwaukee Bucks guard Jevon Carter will ramp up their on-ball pressure. Terry can be an important addition to the defensive scheme — but only if he becomes reliable on offense.

That doesn’t mean he needs to become a dazzling spot-up shooter overnight. But the Bulls need to be able to trust Terry to protect the ball when it’s in his hands and take the right shots when he gets a solid look.

Building upon his playmaking to make his teammates look good is a step in the right direction. If Terry’s shotmaking and decision-making can follow, he still could be due for a bigger role this season.


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