If you are anything like me, you were a bit surprised that the Mavericks selected Tyrell Terry with the 31st overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. I did not see Terry falling out of the first round as a likely possibility. I figured teams — rightfully so — would be worried about his defense and size, but I would’ve guessed his offensive skillset would’ve been enough for someone to bite earlier. As we now know, it wasn’t, and the Mavericks will add the high-scoring guard with loads of upside to their bench.
Terry lives behind the perimeter, making shots pretty much anywhere he wants. He showed some glimpses of secondary-playmaker potential in his one season at Stanford, but his greatest weapon is stationary shooting. Terry, who shot nearly 50 percent on catch-and-shoot threes last season, could be an interesting running mate for Luka Doncic.
How much can Terry keep himself on the floor? Terry is undersized. That’s an objective, undeniable fact. He’s put on weight since he ended his college career, but he’s still sitting at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds (which appears generous). At Stanford, Terry wasn’t able to fight through screens, force his man into defensive coverages, or survive basically any matchup on the low-post. If that was an issue in the Pac-12, it will be an issue in the NBA.
It’s not to say that Terry can’t compensate for this with his offense. There are plenty of players in the NBA who use high-caliber offensive skillsets to overshadow poor defense, therefore playing more minutes for their respective team. But for the time being, it looks like the “Tyrell Terry for Rookie of the Year” crowd will have to tap the brakes, as it sounds like Rick Carlisle currently has him near the end of the bench.
Carlisle on Terry: "He had a phenomenal day today with that third unit. Those guys were on offense as we were doing some defensive stuff. He stretched his range out and he threw in some really great shots today and showed his range and showed his ability."— Callie Caplan (@CallieCaplan) December 8, 2020
Best Case Scenario
Terry immediacy finds a way to tap into his offensive potential, giving himself a spot in the higher-end of the rotation. He comes off the Mavericks’ bench, makes shots coming off screens, helps run the offense and doesn’t get bullied on defense.
The Mavericks have a plethora of score-first guards on their bench for this season. Terry could fit in well with that mix as a player with potential to score in a variety of ways. He can run off-screens, come off pin-downs and be used in floppy actions. Being used as an off-ball shooting threat is what I think is best for Terry’s production.
It also wouldn’t hurt for Terry to continue to improve his offensive playmaking. Having another ball-handler coming off your bench never hurts. This could cause some fun three guard lineups with Terry playing alongside Jalen Brunson and Trey Burke, if Rick Carlisle feels like getting weird.
Worst Case Scenario
Terry’s offense takes some time to develop while his defensive weaknesses get exploited, forcing him out of the rotation.
If Terry’s offense doesn’t show up early in the season, and you add the given that he’s going to be a negative-defender, I have a hard time seeing how he gets minutes. Terry’s greatest strength on offense is being able to make shots off the ball. If he’s not doing that efficiently, his offensive role shrinks. With Brunson and Burke already on the depth chart, plugging an underperforming Terry into the rotation wouldn’t make much sense.
The way small defenders — like Terry — survive in the NBA is by winning the chess match. Terry has to be thinking one read ahead of whatever is happening in front of him if he wants to avoid disadvantages. If he sees a screen coming, he has to immediately start thinking about if he’s going to hedge, tag, or switch.
It’s not impossible to do, in fact, Terry has been reported as a smart guy on and off the court. I mean, he did get into Stanford. Still, the demanding nature of having to go into every possession one step ahead could fatigue Terry out quite a bit.
With Terry, projections are going to difficult. He has so much raw potential, in addition to some very big swing factors, that the only way we’ll be able to figure out who he is on the court is by watching him play.