Taking Out the Trash Volume 6: Dalen Terry, Composer of Chaos
Dalen Terry might not be a household name yet, but he is already a legendary composer of chaos.
Dalen Terry is your new favorite college basketball player; you just don’t know it yet.
After a long hiatus, I am back. As much as I want to keep up with the other legends on our site, I just don’t think my mind works like theirs. I actually have no idea how these guys pump out creative content every week. It takes so long for me to put these articles together that I’m hoping you guys start collecting my articles like I’m trying to collect this year’s NBA Panini Prizm boxes. This article is a Pop 1, Gem Mint 10, PSA 10, One of One. The Podfather, Bill Simmons, is right when he talks about investing in this year’s rookie class. I can’t wait to have 10 Cade and Evan Mobley rookie cards—this is how I become rich. Whenever those boxes drop, I’m going to be dropping all my money bags on those boxes.
Dalen Terry is why we’re here, though; no one gives a rat’s ass about my lack of creativity. Let’s talk about the 6’7” composer of chaos who completely won over my heart.
Earlier this month, Tyler Rucker and I took another trip to Vegas to catch the Pac-12 tournament live. We really wanted to get a good look at some guys that we haven’t had the chance to see in person yet. Going into the Arizona vs. Stanford game, I was mostly excited to see Bennedict Mathurin. I’ve been the resident pessimist on Mathurin all season long, and I wanted to see if I was an idiot or not. As the game progressed, I found myself way more focused on Mathurin’s teammates. I may be in the minority here, but I think this year’s Arizona squad was filled with future NBA and overseas pros. Guys like Mathurin, Tubelis, Koloko, Terry, Kriisa, Balo, and more should end up playing either in the NBA or elsewhere. Of all the talent on the floor, the one man who seemed to dictate the mood and energy in the arena was actually Dalen Terry. Coming into the Vegas trip, I knew very little about Terry and only had seen him play a handful of times. I definitely hadn’t seen him enough to have any kind of opinion.
By the end of our week in Vegas, I went home thinking that if I were an NBA executive, I’d have Terry’s name written down somewhere in bold letters. Terry reminds me so much of the popular guy in high school who instantly affects the mood and vibe of a room as soon as he walks in. I know nothing about Terry’s personal life, but I imagine he must have a lot of friends. There’s just an unquantifiable magnetism to him that Tyler Rucker and I could feel even from where we were sitting. It wasn’t just the play on the court but how he reacted with the fans—he hyped up his teammates, and he celebrated every time his teammates scored. There is a beautiful positive energy that permeates through him and influences everyone around him.
I thought of Terry as a composer of chaos not only due to all that he brings to the floor but also due to his ability to control the tempo, his connection with his teammates, and the showmanship to keep the crowd engaged and involved.
To better explain how I view Terry, I want to talk a little bit about Mozart and Cliff Lee.
Korean moms are famous for sharing all kinds of false information in group chats of 10 or more people. Whether it’s through the church, work, or some sort of social club, Korean moms love joining group chats and sharing all kinds of nonsense. There’s something about Korean moms and the deep desire they all share in wanting to one-up each other with some random piece of information. Growing up, some lady in our neighborhood told my mom she heard on the news that children become smarter if they listen to an hour of classical music every day, especially Mozart. My mom went on to buy three CDs of Mozart’s greatest hits and put me in piano and violin classes. I took three years of lessons, didn’t get any smarter, and I have no idea how to play either instrument. As Borat would say…
Why did I just share that random story about my mom and her propensity to fall for lies? Because Mozart came to mind as I watched Dalen Terry absolutely dominate games without even scoring a ton. The thing about Terry that blows me away is how masterfully he can leave his mark on games without grabbing headlines or having insane counting stats on a boxscore. The more I watched Terry’s game in person and on tape, there was something so professional and nuanced about his game and the influence he had on the outcome. Whether it’s a mind-numbing backdoor pass or a perfectly timed steal, Terry just gets things done on the court. I compared him to Mozart because he knows how to elevate and accentuate the talent of his teammates. He’s also so good at controlling the tempo and influencing the team’s energy. When you watch him on the bench, on the floor, and during timeouts, there is a leadership and team-centric quality to his personality that is really meaningful and will never show up on a boxscore. I have no idea how to orchestrate music, but I imagine Mozart had some of the same qualities.
With all that said, let’s get into his game.
Of the three areas of his game that I want to highlight, his passing has to be first on the list because he’s insanely good at it. When you watch Terry orchestrate the offense, there’s so much to like about the creativity and deception that goes into it. Just take a look at this dime below and tell me that isn’t magic.
This dude is not a normal guy. I know that these passes are also dependent on the timing and precision of the cuts made by his teammates. If you watched Arizona this season, then you probably saw the connections that Terry had with Bennedict Mathurin and Justin Kier. Look at the touch and timing of the pass. He’s moving towards Kier, Kier perfectly times the cut, Terry delivers it on a silver platter, and Kier gets the easy bucket. Watching passes like this reminds me so much of a guy who dominated baseball for years, Cliff Lee.
As a lifelong New York Yankees fan, Cliff Lee is a sensitive topic. Cliff Lee was one of the best, if not the best, pitchers in baseball for many years in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Back in 2010, the Yankees essentially had a trade-in place to acquire Lee from the Mariners, but the trade fell through when one of the prospects in the trade was hurt and the Yankees refused to let go of one of their young stars. In hindsight, maybe the Yankees should have given up Eduardo Nunez or Ivan Nova; neither turned out to be superstars.
Lee is an interesting person to compare Terry to because Lee was a bonafide star—he won the Cy Young award in 2008 and was widely known as an absolute master of pitching. Although Terry was a good player for Arizona, he barely averaged 8.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 3.9 APG this season. Terry was far from being a superstar of college basketball. There are similarities, though—Cliff Lee wasn’t a superstar from day one. If you go back and look at his career stats, it took him a couple of years to reach his final form. (Will anyone understand this reference? I’m not sure.)
Although Terry may not be at Lee’s apex level yet, there are aspects of his game that remind me of peak Cliff Lee.
The biggest connection for me is in Terry’s ability to mix up velocity, consistent accuracy, and manufactured deception. As I highlighted in the clips above, Terry is very good at using pass fakes, look aways, and a live dribble to keep defenses guessing. Cliff Lee did the same with his pitching. Lee had ridiculous command of all of his pitches. He knew how to locate his fastball, throw hitters off with his off-speed pitches, and do it all without walking a ton of guys.
This pass might be my favorite one from Terry all season. I love how he draws the defense’s attention with his drive to the bucket, fakes the pass to Mathurin, and perfectly drops it off to Kier for the assist. The pass fake and perfect placement of the ball is really special to me. Not only was the execution of the pass insane, but we also have to keep in mind that he delivered that pass on the move. His ability to make live dribble passes with either hand and with accuracy is why I think Terry can become a very special passer. If the two passes I’ve shown you so far haven’t convinced you yet, look at this clip below and try to tell me that isn’t magic.
The more you watch Terry, the more you realize this is firmly in his arsenal. He hasn’t done this sporadically throughout the season—he throws dimes like this on the regular. This is another pass that he makes on the move with just the perfect amount of pace and direction. If Terry throws it any harder, it goes right by Mathurin; if he throws it any lower, Mathurin wouldn’t be able to reach it. That’s a perfectly weighted pass that leads to a beautiful jam and what should have been a foul as well.
Terry made so many of these passes this season that it reminded me of when you first learn how to play FIFA on Playstation, and you figure out how to pass with through balls. Through balls look so pretty, and when they are executed correctly can completely dice up and demolish a defense. With the perfect timing, weight, and run of the recipient, a through pass is a lethal weapon. When I first learned how to do them on FIFA, I literally tried about 300 of them per game. Most of them led to nothing or were intercepted, but I couldn’t stop trying because I knew how beautiful and lethal they could be. Unlike my trash FIFA skills, Terry is a master of the basketball version of a through ball.
It’s not just pretty backdoor passes either; the guy can do the mundane and basic stuff too. Look at this nice over-the-top entry pass, nice little pocket pass, and a big-time lob as well.
2. Transition Play
The second area of Terry’s game that I love is his work in transition. Growing up, I just thought transition play was all about just running really fast and getting a dunk or layup off of a turnover. Of course, some transition plays are that simple, but I do think there is a big commitment aspect to consistently being a good transition player. You have to have the vision, desire, and energy to keep pushing it up and down the court like that. This is one of the main areas of Terry’s game where you can feel his energy all over the court. Terry may not be the fastest human alive, but he can get down the court quickly with his long strides. He can really put a lot of pressure on teams with the pace with which he plays. It’s good for Terry to get to the rim because he shot 69% at the rim for the season, according to Barttorvik.
I love this first play so much because as soon as Terry sees Balo grab the board, he is booking it down the court. Coaching has to play a part in this style of play, but you have to love the energy and effort of Terry to get down the court that fast and finish the nice pass from Kriisa. Plays like this linger in the opposing team’s mind and become something the other team has to consider.
The three plays above are off of turnovers where Terry just picks up the steal and goes full speed ahead by himself. As much as he deserves credit for the nice defensive plays here, you have to focus on the willingness to run. Terry knows when to crank it to 11 and attack the rim with some anger. I especially like the second clip where he didn’t score, but he showed a lot of savvy with how he attacked in transition. He read where the defender was and intentionally slowed down to give him a little bump before going up with it. The third clip is also beautiful because big powerful dunks like that can really shift the momentum. Just watching the crowd react to that dunk tells you all you need to know about the impact of that play. That dunk was easily worth more than 2 points.
3. Developing Defense/Shooting
These are the areas of his game where I want to highlight both good and bad. Nowadays, when you see a long and lanky 6’7” wing, we have this major urge to label them as 3-and-D wings, or at least that’s what we hope they can become. I think the three and the D are what Terry needs to work on the most. Terry can eventually become a pretty versatile defender. He knows how to use his length well, he plays with good energy and effort, and he does a decent job of staying in front of his man and getting over screens. The issue with him as a defender in my eyes is his slight frame and not-so-quick feet.
In the play above, I think Terry does a pretty good job of staying in front of his man and contesting without fouling by using his length at the end of the shot clock. I think he does a pretty good job of reading where the ball handler wants to go and tries his best to stay in front and contest with his long arms. But even on a play like this, you can see the physical advantage that the offensive player has over Terry by how much Terry gets moved and how the offensive player still gets to the spot that he wants to reach.
In this play, Terry does a great job of getting over the screen and trapping Harrison Ingram along the sideline with Kriisa which leads to a turnover. You can see the energy and effort to get over the screen and how he uses his length and intensity to force Ingram into a turnover. We were in the building for this game and I can tell you from firsthand experience that plays like this from Terry have a major influence on the momentum of the game. The way that the crowd reacted to Terry and his passion on the court was unreal. This stuff gets you excited about his defensive potential but also shows how he makes momentum-shifting/altering plays.
It’s not all roses with him on this side of the ball though.
In the two plays above, you can see the lack of foot speed and strength. In the first clip, he gets matched up on USC’s Boogie Ellis, who is a pretty quick guard. Terry tries to stay in front of him, but the speed is too much, and he can do very little to stay in front of him. I will say that the assignment is probably difficult for a lot of guys his size, but you can still see that his feet aren’t super quick. I don’t think his footwork is bad, but I do think it is kinda slow. Another small area for improvement is I think many times he just folds over when guarding his man rather than actually getting into a proper stance. I’m not saying that he’s doing this out of laziness—I just think it’s habitual for him.
In the second clip, it looks like he took an extra step or two towards midcourt when his man catches the ball and has his momentum moving in the wrong direction. He tries to recover and stay in front of his man, but he’s a little too slow and not strong enough to muscle his man offline. His man gets a step on him and uses his physicality to completely seal off Terry from contesting his shot.
As I mentioned before, I think he has good tools to be a really versatile defender who can guard multiple positions, but I think there’s some room for growth before he becomes a really high-end defender. Looking at his frame now, you also know that he will add mass and make up for what he’s lacking in strength. Lock this kid in the gym for a summer, and he’ll easily add 10-15 pounds of muscle and be ready to rock with the big boys.
In terms of his shooting, I think there’s a lot more to work that he needs to do.
I want to start off with his areas for improvement. I think the biggest thing that I noticed with his shooting is he likes to shoot on his way down. That first miss is pretty intense. I know he’s pulling up in transition to take the shot, which in itself is a pretty difficult shot to make, but look at the release of the shot. I’m not a shot doctor by any means, but it looks like his shooting elbow is flailing right a little bit, he seems to be releasing on the way down, and his follow-through seems to be going way right. Of all the shots I watched Terry take, that might have been the ugliest looking miss of them all.
In the second clip, he gets a nice open look in the corner, and you can really see him shooting on the way down a little more in this clip than the first one. The release seems way late to me, and the result is a really short miss. I’m not saying he’s going to be a terrible shooter. Get him with the right coaching staff, and there’s a lot to work with here. I don’t believe his shot is broken or impossible to fix. I think his issues are small mechanical issues that he can easily clean up with coaching and reps.
In both of these clips, the shot looks smoother, the follow-through looks good, and he doesn’t seem to shoot on the way down as much. These are the shots that get you believing in his upside as a shooter. I know it was on small volume, but I really like the fact that he shot 36% from three this season. I think that might be a realistic percentage for him at the next level if he continues to improve.
Ultimately, I don’t even know if Dalen Terry will enter the 2022 draft. Considering the fact that he just finished his sophomore season, he could always go back to school and play with another stacked Arizona squad. I’m sure most of the core players, other than Mathurin and Koloko, should be coming back. With more space, a guy with Terry’s skills could become a real offensive weapon and potentially even a hub for your offense. A couple of months back, my podcast partner Corey Tuluba put out an awesome video where he talked about the growing love and obsession of jumbo playmakers in the NBA.
I know Terry isn’t on the level of the guys mentioned in the video, but it really had me thinking. If the NBA is moving in this direction and larger playmakers really are the wave, why wouldn’t you want a multi-faceted, 6’7” wing who really cares about winning and team morale? As much as I’ve talked about his abilities as a player, the intangible leadership qualities are insane with this guy. NBA teams continue to give Theo Pinson roster spots because of what he does behind the scenes and on the bench. I think Terry will give you all of that with so much more on the court.
Sure, comparing Terry to Mozart and Cliff Lee was probably a stretch, but this is why I haven’t been fired yet by the No Ceilings crew. The team keeps me around to come off the top rope once in a while with weird takes. This is my weird take of the month that’s also laced with an insane amount of truth. If you made it this far, congrats—you’re just as weird as I am. Love you guys.