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Breaking down the talent of Tyrell Terry

The Mavericks got a steal.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Tyrell Terry is one of the rarest talents in the incoming rookie class. At 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds (at most), his size has always been a question mark. His defense is also a concern. But with how talented he is offensively, the questions have never been about his ceiling, but rather if it’s an attainable one.

Coming out of high school, Terry wasn’t very highly recruited. He came out as only the 109th ranked recruit in the Class of 2019, according to 247Sports Composite. But after one season at Stanford, Terry showed why he deserved more attention on the trail.

As a freshman, Terry competed in one of college basketball’s toughest conferences yet still placed at the top in multiple statistical categories. He averaged 14.6 points (13th highest in Pac-12), 3.2 assists (13th) and 1.4 steals (11th) per game last season. He put those numbers up all while shooting 40.8 percent (4th highest in Pac-12) on three-point attempts and 89.1 percent (highest in Pac-12) on free-throws. He was also a sneaky good rebounder, averaging 4.5 rebounds per game.

Terry, in my eyes, has one of the highest offensive ceilings in this class. The main reason for that is his incredible shooting. The league has shown us time and time again that elite shooting can compensate for a lot of weaknesses, but especially size. Stephen Curry is the blueprint example that regardless of your height, you can be a good player in this league if you have a shot. Terry has just that.

The numbers Terry put up as a freshman can only be described as elite. It’s pretty wild that the worst percentage he put up on the play types below was 40.5 percent on spot-ups, a majority of those being threes.

Data from Synergy

Terry, who turned 20 years old just a few months ago, has some of the most ridiculous range I’ve seen from a rookie in a long time. He was easily hitting shots from NBA range last season, which decreases the possibility of a steep drop off in his numbers compared to what they were in college.

One of my favorite things about Terry’s shooting is the way he comes off-screen and moves when he’s off-the-ball. Some of his movement is very Duncan Robinson-esque to me. It was a relatively small sample size from his time at Stanford, but I’m really buying stock in this being a threat he uses often in the league. It’s going to be especially dangerous if he gets plenty of playing time alongside Luka Doncic.

In terms of his passing, Terry has some really impressive playmaking flashes on his tape. He’s best used as a stationary passer, which is good because I don’t think he’ll be a lead guard for Dallas (especially if he makes his way to the top of the rotation). I seem to be higher on Terry’s passing and playmaking compared to the consensus, but I think there are plenty of examples on tape of him really excelling at this.

I think the reason “Draft Twitter”, among others, are low on Terry’s playmaking is because he wasn’t very versatile. Which is fair. Again, Terry will be best utilized as a stationary creator. Right now, he’s still developing a consistent pick-and-roll game and his handle is lackluster. Still, I think his vision and first step are good enough for him to be a consistent secondary playmaker. I also really think some lineups of him playing next to Doncic would be productive.

As for finishing around the rim, Terry is decent as of right now. He shot 58.7 percent on 104 attempts in the restricted area and has pretty good touch. What I worry about is how often he’s able to get to the basket. Small guards in the NBA who are good scorers around the rim almost always have one or both of these skills: they’re quick/shifty as all hell, or they have a really good handle. Terry doesn’t fit under either of those umbrellas yet.

He has a good first step, but his speed really comes out after a few steps. This is what made him a good scorer in transition last season. But I’m interested to see how effective he is at attacking in the league. Again, he has some really crafty finishes around the rim, but still had an issue with getting blocked in college. As you would expect with a 6-3 guard.

In terms of defense, this is why Terry fell to 31. If he was a positive defender, maybe even just a NET zero, he would have been a surefire lottery pick. But Terry is who he is, and the defense is a bit of a problem.

Terry is undersized, and that means you’re going to have a target on your back. We saw offenses game plan attacks against defenders like Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Obviously Terry will just be a rotation player (at least to start), so opposing offenses shouldn’t be preparing to take advantage of him. But don’t be surprised if you see a team running the same pick-and-roll set as often as possible to get a favorable switch on Terry.

He usually looks engaged on the perimeter, but Terry gets beat really often. He just simply didn’t have the strength to give himself the chance against bigger guards. He has gained about ten pounds since leaving Stanford, which is a good sign, but I’m not sure how much of a difference it will make.

Terry is also really aggressive on defense. Aggressive defenders usually have a pretty high steal average, hence Terry’s 2.5 a game. But impacting defensive box score metrics doesn’t always indicate a good defender. Ricky Rubio at 1.4 steals per game last season or Zach Lavine with 1.5 are just a few examples of that. Usually, Terry’s aggressiveness resulted in him jumping on pump fakes or getting beat on a ball fake. This is something coaching can improve. Not being able to fight through screens, getting bullied on the block or getting pushed out of his spots may just be something we have to live with.

Overall, I think Terry is more than well deserving of being selected 31st overall. I had him 16th on my personal big board, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if he would’ve been a first round pick. The Mavericks got a bargain with Terry slipping into the second round. His defense is going to be hard to watch at times, but I promise this kid is going to be really special if gets anywhere near his offensive ceiling. His ability to hit a variety of shots from anywhere on the floor is something Luka Doncic can further maximize, and Terry realizes that as well.

“I think for me, just the way I’m able to shoot the ball, I’m going to be a valuable tool for Luka, especially off pick-and-rolls and finding shooters and also being a secondary ball handler for that role as well. Being able to create — space the floor for Kristaps is going to be important, I think. So I think I’ll be a very good fit for them.” — Tyrell Terry during a draft night media availability