NBA Draft: Bulls’ vision for Dalen Terry predicated on versatility

To many, the pick may have seemed like a reach in the moment.

But the Chicago Bulls believe they have their man in Arizona wing Dalen Terry, who the franchise drafted with the 18th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft Thursday night.

“We took a lot of calls for both scenarios (trading up or down) and, just, nothing stood out to us,” general manager Marc Eversley said of the Bulls’ draft night approach. “When Dalen was on the board and we saw that we were gonna be able to select him, we were excited about it.”

So what was it about Terry that so enamored the Bulls, dating back to a get-to-know-you-dinner just before the draft combine?

Allow the Bulls’ general manager to explain:

Versatility

“He’s going to bring versatility on both ends of the floor.”

Those were the first words from Eversley’s mouth when asked to describe the front office’s short- and long-term vision for Terry.

On defense, Eversley noted, that will mean switching ball-screens and guarding multiple positions — from point guards to small forwards, at least. On offense, the Bulls will push Terry to lead fastbreak charges when his defensive activity helps create such opportunities.

Terry’s measurements scream modern wing. He checked in at just over 6-foot-7 during May’s draft combine, with a wingspan that nearly touched 7-1. So it’s no surprise that Terry noted in his own comments to reporters that he expects to play every position from point guard to power forward (in the right matchup) at the next level, and that he expects his versatility to translate right away.

“He’s not just a guard, he’s not just a wing,” Eversley said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to need to develop. But I think I envision him long term to be more wing than he is guard.”

There are plenty more thresholds to clear before Terry is even a surefire rotation player at the next level. But there is swiss army knife potential within him that the Bulls hope to tap into.

Defensive tenacity

Remember when the Bulls were at the best, in November and December 2021? When the controlled havoc wreaked by Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso turned opponents over at a prolific rate, leading to scintillating transition sequences?

Terry fits that identity to a tee.

Not only did the lengthy, hyper-active guard average 1.2 steals per game in his sophomore season at Arizona, he also oozes physicality regardless of whether he is embracing an individual matchup or jumping an opponents’ passing or driving lane. He received Pac-12 All-Defense honors for the 2021-22 season for a reason.

“Those are the things that I can do every day,” Terry said of his defense and versatility. “I believe also that my energy, my leadership, my grit, all those things that make me who I am are going to keep me in this position.”

That Terry also possesses athleticism in droves and a knack for facilitating offense on the fastbreak is gravy — and just what the doctor ordered for a Bulls team that is optimized when turning defense into offense.

“He just brings an energy and a vibe that I think he’s gonna fit really well within this gym,” Eversley said. “He competes, he plays hard, he brings energy, and I think he’s gonna be a great fit.”

Makeup

Terry’s prospect projection is far from perfect. High on his list of improvement areas, according to both Terry and Eversley, is perimeter shooting, particularly off the dribble. He will also need to add plenty of muscle as he ages if he hopes to be a truly switchable wing defender at the pro level.

But the Bulls strongly believe that Terry’s workmanlike approach will lead him to maximizing his talents.

“We’re not worried about whether he’s gonna do the work or not,” Eversley said. “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. And we’re excited about that.”

Terry is, as Eversley described, a “ball of energy,” which was evident in the rookie’s Zoom interview with local media on Thursday. Apparently, that came through in a call with the Bulls’ front office as well.

“He literally said to us he would run here right now and get started,” Eversley cracked.

So, on the court, Terry embodies the type of rangy, high-motor wing defender that is coveted in this day and age. Off of it, he appears to employ an enthusiastic, yet growth-oriented, approach.

Time will tell if Terry lives up to the potential the Bulls envision. But that vision is evident.

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