In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, today, we examine Stanford guard Tyrell Terry.
After a single season at Stanford, Tyrell Terry is taking at a shot at the NBA by way of joining the 2020 NBA draft class. And why not? It’s not the strongest class and the 2020-2021 college basketball season remains uncertain in a number of ways.
Terry’s ability to shoot the basketball is largely the reason he is consistently projected to be a late first or early second round selection. He connected on 40.8% of his 152 three point attempts last year. He’s a better shooter off of the catch than he is off of the dribble, and maybe most encouraging is that he shot better coming off of screens than he did in spot up opportunities suggesting that he can further develop as a player that can shoot on the move.
Terry is also broadly considered a very smart player and, by all reports, NBA front offices are convinced of that. In addition, he’s reportedly been impressive in interviews and other evaluations with coaches and general managers in the modified pre-draft process.
The primary issue with projecting Terry to be a more valuable prospect is his size. He measures at 6’2 and 160 pounds. Undersized players like him typically have to be tremendous fast-twitch athletes or possess elite straight line speed as to stand out in their respective classes. Terry doesn’t fit either of those descriptions.
The intelligence was relatively easy to see during his time at Stanford. He plays a fairly obvious cerebral brand of basketball reading the floor, executing with solid patience for a young player and consistently making the right play. At the same time, he’s never demonstrated an above-average feel for the game, especially in the important areas for a guard.
The possible lack of feel could be a real issue as he is forced to play at a faster pace at the next level. At the college level, Terry graded relatively well in the pick and roll, but his best production came when the execution was simple. He was able to consistently handle simple pocket passes, drop-off reads and such.
At this stage, Terry simply hasn’t done a ton to this point to lead one to believe that, apart from significant development progress, he’s going to be workable as a primary point guard. That just makes issues related to his size even more concerning.
From a ball handling perspective, Terry does have a robust dribble package that he puts to work in isolation. However, he doesn’t project to be a three-level scorer, so how often will his skills in that area come into play?
As he did in the pick and roll, Terry graded well scoring at the rim. There are plenty of questions, though, as to how that area of his game will translate versus bigger and better defenders.
If an NBA team is able to carve out a role for Terry that allows him to create gravity with his ability to shoot off of screens and to stretch defenses with his ability to shoot off of the catch, he could, in time, generate a decent amount of value. In addition, it doesn’t seem like it would be completely surprising if he ends up being the best shooter in the draft class. That possibility alone will generate opportunities for him to crack an NBA rotation.
As one might guess, given his size, there are bigger questions about his fit on defense. When he’s engaged and putting in effort, it’s apparent that he’s been coached in advanced settings. likely even prior to his time at Stanford. Terry demonstrates great foot work and general technique — for example inside hand on the hip, outside hand high when defending dribble penetration — when working defensively on the ball. The application is inconsistent, though maybe that is to be expected to a degree with younger players.
When defending off of the ball, it’s also been a real mixed bag for Terry. For starters, this is where he makes his best impact when applying himself. Some of his play in this area elicits comparisons to Jeff Teague. He is capable of putting his basketball IQ to work to see lazy and/or predictable passes before they happen, taking advantage by being quick to get into passing lanes in these situations as to create turnovers and easy points in transition.
Terry also can come out of nowhere and pounce on a lax ball handler to similarly create steals and transition possessions. Too often, however, he is flat footed when out of the play on defense as opposed to consistently being on the balls of his feet.
As a help defender, Terry simply lacks the tools to be able to get in a play and create resistance. When a defensive rotation calls for him to help at the rim, he likewise just has nothing really with which to work.
Smart, small defenders have made themselves valuable at the NBA level before by committing to playing the right technique with discipline and being a step ahead of he play. In fact, there really is no firm reason that Terry couldn’t work his way into being that kind of defender. For him to earn minutes at the professional level, however, the IQ and anticipation is going to have to be applied on every defensive possession.
Terry has been consistently mocked to NBA teams whose rosters are constructed with offensive creators at the bigger positions, and that makes perfect sense. Perhaps the easiest historical comp to make in terms of what success could like is the similarly diminutive BJ Armstrong playing next to Michael Jordan on three of the Chicago Bulls championship teams from the 1990’s.
Could Terry maximize his contribution playing next to players like Giannis Antetokounmpo or James Harden? Could he be developed to perform as a second option in the mold Jamal Murray with a center like Nikola Jokic creating on most possessions?
There is certainly a path for a player like Terry, but it almost assuredly involves playing with maximum effort on every defensive possession, and utilizing his shooting gravity to fit a specific archetype.