What Dalen Terry brings to the Chicago Bulls: 'He's a Swiss army knife'

What Dalen Terry brings to the Chicago Bulls: ‘He’s a Swiss army knife’

It was a classic case of adding insult to injury. During the final minute of Arizona’s win over Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals on March 10, sophomore point guard Kerr Kriisa sustained a right ankle injury so severe he had to leave the arena in a wheelchair. Kriisa missed the next three games, and when he came back he was a shadow of himself, shooting 1-of-17 from the floor (all 3-pointers) in two games. That was a huge reason why the No. 1-seeded Wildcats failed to reach the Final Four, losing instead to Houston in the Sweet 16.

Kriisa’s absence – and diminished capacity after his return – forced Dalen Terry, Arizona’s 6-7 sophomore guard, to play a more prominent role. To that point, Terry had been known mostly for his intangible contributions on a roster teeming with stars. Those efforts earned him the captaincy of The Athletic‘s 2022 All-Glue team. Terry was the Wildcats’ fifth-leading scorer at 8.0 points per game (to go along with 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals) last season, but in the loss to Houston he put up a team-high 17 points (2 of 3 from 3-point range) while adding six rebounds, three assists and one block. Over his last five games, Terry averaged 14.2 points (on 64.3 percent 3-point shooting), 5.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists (to just 1.4 turnovers) and 1.8 steals. Thanks to Kriisa’s injury, a player who excelled at doing all the little things was suddenly doing a lot of very big things. That propelled Terry into the 2022 NBA Draft, where he was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 18th pick.

“When Kriisa went out, he played the point position, and they didn’t really miss a beat,” an NBA Eastern Conference general manager says. “He’s not a great athlete, but he’s good enough. He’s a Swiss army knife who can play a lot of different positions. Of all the interviews we did, you could tell his competitiveness was through the roof. I loved his energy. ”

Indeed, for all his physical gifts, that energy is what made Terry so invaluable to Arizona last season. “His greatest strength is he plays crazy hard consistently,” Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd says. “I can’t think of a practice or a drill where he thought, I’m chilling today.”

That mindset – and his Glue Guy skill set – was first instilled when Terry was 7 years old and started working out with the women’s basketball team at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, which was coached by his aunt. During the summers the team would play early in the morning, so if Terry wanted to join them, he would have to meet his aunt outside his home in Phoenix at 4:30 am Shot opportunities for a young boy were few and far between in those pickup games, so Terry had to learn to become good at all the other parts of the game.

That experience prepared Terry for a high school career that usually featured him playing alongside brighter lights. He played for Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, where one of his teammates was Deandre Ayton, the future Arizona Wildcat and No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, as well as for the Compton Magic, the prestigious grassroots program based in California where he teamed up with Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley, among many other four- and five-star prospects.

Unlike a lot of college freshmen who are of advanced age, Terry did not turn 18 until the summer before his freshman season at Arizona. He started the season in the starting lineup, but his weak perimeter shooting (41.5 percent from the floor and 32.6 percent from 3) prompted then-Arizona coach Sean Miller to bring him off the bench. Terry improved in this area over the course of his two seasons in Tucson, but it remains the part of his game that needs to progress the most if he is going to be an effective NBA player.

At the other end of the floor, however, Terry is already elite. He is long, agile and versatile, and he brings a compelling blend of innate instincts and a dedication to study his opponents for long hours. “He’s one of the smartest defenders in this draft,” an NBA scout says. “His anticipation just jumps off the screen for me. He’s got an extremely high basketball IQ. Once the shooting piece falls into place, he’s going to have a chance to make a really high impact. ”

It’s hard for Arizona fans not to play the what-if game regarding Kriisa’s late-season ankle injury, but there’s no doubt that it put Terry in position to extend the tradition of Arizona point guards who make waves at the next level. “He’s long, he’s athletic, he plays with great spirit and energy,” Lloyd says. “He just needs a little more experience getting stronger and playing against pros, and he’s going to be well on his way.”

(Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA Today)

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