It was a g’day for media members Friday at the close of the annual NBA Predraft Combine at the West Side Quest MultiSport. No one asked Terrance Ferguson whether he intended to put another shrimp on the Barbie.
Heck, he didn’t even sound Australian.
But the kid who was labeled the mystery of the NBA draft because he skipped college to play professionally in Australia—of course more so to media members and the public than the NBA—isn’t likely to be a mystery much longer with impressive athletic and shooting abilities at guard.
Perhaps even for the Bulls.
Ferguson is a reasonable possibility to be available at No. 16 where the Bulls select in the first round of the draft. Though perhaps more advanced than some collegians, Ferguson isn’t ready to step into an NBA starting lineup at his age. But he’s an appealing prospect for a potential mid first rounder, a high flying, exceptional athletic guard with good size who already is a good catch and shoot player from three-point range. For his team, he was primarily an off the bench defender. But he finished games more as the season concluded.
He was one of several intriguing prospects who may be available in the middle of the first round.
Gonzaga seven-foot center Zach Collins, a clever big man, is likely to be selected at the end of the lottery. But there’s considerable uncertainty after the top 10 picks and Collins didn’t play a lot. So some teams may be leery. He looks like an unusually versatile big man.
“I think I’m a five,” Collins said. “I grew up playing a five, but I also play a four. I think I’ve always tried not to be a big stiff and just finish around the rim. It’s important to be able to shoot, dribble and be fundamentally sound wherever you are on the court. The way the game is played now in the NBA, you don’t find a lot of guys having success being big and bulky who only finish around the rim. You have to able to do multiple things offensively and defensively.”
Other interesting prospects who could be available around the Bulls position include Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell, North Carolina forward Justin Jackson, Duke guard Luke Kennard and Florida State forward Dwyane Bacon. There should be other competent big men. Like Texas’ Jarrett Allen, who could slip to the middle of the first round and says he sees no problem with the changing role of big men in the game.
“Animals evolve, humans evolve,” he noted. “The game of basketball is evolving.”
In their own evolution, it would seem the Bulls’ priorities would include wing shooting and athletic ability at guard. Ferguson might check the boxes at both. And already having to earn his playing time against veterans.
“I was learning the basics of being a professional,” said the 6-7 high flier who also draws comparisons to shooters like Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. “Take care of my body, recovery and taking care of your money, spend it right and be smart. I was getting ready for professional life, playing against grown men and competing against them every day.”
Ferguson, who turns 19 next week, only averaged about five points playing for Adelaide in the Australian league. He was slated to attend the U. of Arizona, but followed the path of two previous lottery picks, Emmanuel Mudiay and Brandon Jennings to skip the one year of college, earn money and get a head start on playing against professionals. NBA executives have differing views of the experience. Some believe the player doesn’t advance because he’ll play less being in a league with experienced pros. Ferguson sees it as a head start toward learning about your career.
And, at least, it avoids the hypocrisy of college where some players these days take summer school classes before entering as freshman. That way they don’t even have to attend classes the first semester in the pretense of the student/athlete concept.
“If you want to be a ball player and focus on basketball, school is going to weigh you down most days,” Ferguson acknowledged. “I knew I could not sit in a classroom.”
He could be a ripper. You know, what the Australians say for really great.
The Bulls likely also have that high second round pick from Sacramento and could find Duke’s Frank Jackson there. The scoring combo guard decided to get into the draft for certain after playing well in the first day of scrimmages, which the top draft picks skip for fear of not playing well. Yes, the colleges sure are producing a strong line of competitors.
Monte Morris, the career Iowa State leader in assists, also is more the scoring point guard who should be available at that second round spot. He is known for his care of the ball. He said his mother always taught him to treat the ball like it was her purse and watch out for her. He said he keeps in contact with his former coach, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. “Fred’s my guy,” he said. “He texted me (after the first day) and even though I didn’t make shots, he said I did show a lot of things that don’t show on the stat sheet. He told me to stay confident and positive and control my body language, go out and do what got me here. He instilled a lot of confidence in me, told me play freely and we’ll see mistakes on film. He’s that kind of guy for players.”
Sindarius Thornwell, the 6-5 senior South Carolina shooting guard some of the mock drafts slate to the Bulls on the second round, sounded like someone who would compete amidst questions many players have been getting about why they attended the draft combine.
You wish many of your high lottery picks had that attitude as well.