Most of you probably don’t know Dalen Terry, the University of Arizona guard whom the Bulls selected 18th in the NBA Draft on Thursday.
But you’re probably going to know a lot about him soon. And if it’s also for his basketball, the Bulls may be thanking their lucky No. 18.
“How’re you doing?” he was asked by way of introduction by local media on a Zoom conference call from the Bulls Advocate Center center court shortly after he was selected by the Bulls.
“How ya doing! How ya doing!” Terry bellowed, quickly seemingly the most enthusiastic and engaged any Bulls draft prospect has been in these awkward post-draft phone sessions since Reggie Theus in 1978.
Dalen Terry Draft Media Availability
“When I worked out before (the Draft Combine for the Bulls), it was all love, honestly,” enthused the springy 6-7, 19-year-old. “I had a really good time there, actually; I really wanted to be there. It’s crazy. I called my agent immediately right after like, ‘Nah, that’s where I need to be.’ It’s great they drafted me. Man, I’m so happy. I feel I fit in perfectly. I’m a lengthy guard and will do anything to win. Man, I watched so much DeMar DeRozan this year. It’s crazy, him just getting to his spots. Zach LaVine, the smoothest player ever. Alex Caruso was in the locker room when I was in the locker room when I worked out! Everything is like, wow! I’m so happy, like 18 was perfect. I wanted to go to the Chicago Bulls.’
He’s not Magic Johnson, but you smile when he speaks like you did with Magic. That’s a love of the game.
"When I had my dinner with them when I worked out it was great,” Terry went on. “I feel like it’s a family already. We made each other laugh; everybody was laughing. And in my workout I felt the energy. Where you are standing there, I was shooting there!”
This was the personality version of Samuel L. Jackson doing a scene from Pulp Fiction accompanied by Jerry Lee Lewis on keyboards. Whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.
Now if he can shoot.
That’s something of the question mark for Terry, who is something of the prototype, Swiss Army knife NBA model these days with long arms, size to play guard or small forward (he calls himself a guard for now), and athletic leaping ability. That sure sounds good. But just turning 20 this summer, he was mostly a support player in college who averaged about eight points as a sophomore and attempted just six shots per game. Then because of injuries he became the team’s de facto point guard filling up the box score and making first team all-defense.
“I pass the ball,” said Terry. “I felt like me passing the ball my teammates scoring is just like me scoring. I was the guy who could sacrifice some shots to get the offense going, initiate the offense, make the extra pass, get the rebounds. I was doing the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. Me not taking a lot of shots at some point was the role I was playing. l’m a product of my environment. Whatever situation I am in I am going to adapt to.”
Which could be a crowded one on the Bulls.
Bulls General Manager Marc Eversley meeting with media after the draft said the Bulls project Terry as more of a so called wing player, the popular perimeter category in the NBA these days. The Bulls could use support there, especially with a player like Terry who is active on defense and can turn that defense into transition offense. Eversley noted the Bulls were at their best last season playing that style when Lonzo Ball and Caruso were healthy.
Eversley in response to media inquires said Ball is progressing well from his knee issues that benched him the last three months and expects him to be ready for training camp. But he could not provide details.
Meanwhile, it is a crowded backcourt with Terry trying to work his way in with Ball, Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White and basically guard/wing players DeRozan and LaVine.
Eversley predictably and appropriately said the Bulls were pleased and excited to draft a defensive oriented athlete like Terry.
Though he also conceded at the No. 18 pick the Bulls went with their list’s best player available. Eversley was vague about talks, though indicated they were about both going up or down in the draft.
The most common speculation was that the Bulls, with perhaps their primary need of an interior defensive player, were angling for Duke center Mark Williams, who came off the board at No. 15 to Charlotte. There also were media reports of Bulls interest in LSU’s Tari Eason, who went a pick before to Houston at No. 17. He has a similar game to Terry’s, but is a bit taller and about 25 pounds heavier with Terry just about 195. So gaining strength and some improved three-point shooting, particularly off the dribble, are priorities for him, Terry said.
Others who were believed to be on the Bulls wish list for possibilities at No. 18 came off early, like Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan at No. 9, Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams at No. 12 and Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji at No. 14.
Though Terry actually seems to fit a dual profile roster that basketball Vice President Artūras Karnišovas is building with another teenager, Patrick Williams, as his other first-round draft pick. It looks like a two-tier plan to support the steady veteran offensive talent of DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic with athletic, defensive-oriented youngsters like Williams and now Terry.
Terry is a Phoenix native who was mostly a point guard in high school, and carried almost a three-to-one assist/turnover ratio to Arizona. He’s an improving shooter, 36 percent on threes and 74 percent on free throws after 61 percent on free throws as a freshman. He admitted his three-point shooting off the dribble needs work compared with his spot up shooting.
He had off the chart measurables among the rookie class, tied for first among guards in standing reach (8-10) and tied for second among guards in wingspan (7-1). Terry and Dyson Daniels were tied for second among guards in height without shoes (6-6). He only averaged 6.6 points in two collegiate seasons and never had a 20-point game. But he regularly threatened triple doubles and his plus/minus was excellent with the team 10 points better when he was on the court.
He was obviously a late riser in the draft after his Combine workouts since he wasn’t one of the 24 players invited to New York for the draft’s Green Room, which usually reflects the belief of the best players. Though some of them went in the second round. It wasn’t until late in the process Terry committed to the draft after uncertainly this season if he’d be a first round pick.
But he was honest, as he seemed about most everything, about his desires.
“I didn’t start playing basketball to be a college player,” he admitted. “I’ve always wanted to be in the NBA, and as soon as they were calling (as a possible first round pick) I was, ‘Man, I gotta go.’ I’d rather be in the NBA ready to learn and all that rather than be in college and be a star.”
No, he’s not shy with the media. And if he can produce in any significant way, you’re going to hear a lot from him next season as a media favorite.
“We really saw him as somebody that could fit with what we're building here with the Bulls,” said Eversley. "He's gonna bring versatility on both ends of the floor. Defensively, I think he's gonna be able to switch one through three. I think offensively he's gonna get out and run. I think last year early on we had a lot of success when we created turnovers defensively and got out and ran. I think he is somebody who's gonna be able to do that for us. He's a capable three-point shooter. I wouldn't call him a three-point shooter. But with his makeup, I think you (media) guys had an opportunity to speak to him; he just brings an energy and a vibe that I think he's gonna fit really well within this gym. He competes, he plays hard, he brings energy.”
How much energy?
“He fits the kind of makeup that we want to bring in,” said Eversley. “He's a tough kid. He's competitive. He brings a winning spirit to the room. I think he's a ball of energy, and I think we need that in this building every single day. He's just got the perfect makeup in terms of a kid who's gonna come in and do the things every single day to try to get better. We're excited about that.
“We spoke to him about 30 minutes ago,” Eversley said with a smile. “The kid was incredibly excited about being a Chicago Bull. He literally said to us he would run here right now and get started. That’s just the kind of kid he is and we’re excited to have him.”