Everyone has a tipping point. For the Chicago Bulls, their most recent came after a 22-win season in 2020 sparking sweeping changes within the organization and to the roster. In the past nine months, however, they have shifted to a theme of “continuity”.
That has mostly meant being reluctant to make further changes to a flawed group either due to a lack of interest in doing so and/or sufficient capital to make a sensible deal happen.
What they do still have, however, are options on who is and is not on the floor.
Enter head coach Billy Donovan, whose multi-year extension was completed in secrecy and announced two months into the season. He is being called upon to renege on a recent decision on one of the few promising prospects this team has, rookie Dalen Terry, and the source of the push is a surprising one.
Bulls Must Play Terry
“I’m ready to stand on this on the final day of November,” The Athletic’s Bulls insider Darnell Mayberry tweeted in the wake of the blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns. “The Bulls need to play Dalen Terry. Whatever it takes, the rookie needs minutes. Not only for his sake. I believe he’ll help.”
Terry has averaged 14 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.6 assists in five games for the Windy City Bulls, Chicago’s G League affiliate.
He is shooting 48.1% from the floor but has only hit 2-of-11 triples — a pre-existing concern.
It’s not every day that team insiders make outright suggestions on what the team they cover should do. Most often, information is presented and the consumer is left to formulate their own opinion with that information.
But the Bulls’ performance to start this season has left them seeking out a spark before it is too late as they wait out the return of starting point guard Lonzo Ball.
The rookie could be part of the solution.
“Terry should sub in for Patrick Williams on nights like Wednesday, a second straight difficult outing for the third-year forward,” Mayberry explains. “Williams scored two points on 0-of-8 shooting in 28 minutes. He added three rebounds, one assist, and one block while being no match for Booker. Terry…likely would have gotten torched even worse. But now, when the stakes are low and the losses are rolling in anyway, is the time Terry should be groomed.”
Williams has averaged 3.5 points on .083% shooting (20% 3P) with 4.0 boards in two games since declaring that he felt he could be a superstar. He had averaged 12.8 points, 5.0 boards, and 1.3 assists over four games before that with a .571/.667/.900 slash line in the process.
Still, the continued inconsistency is frustrating for a Bulls team that is banking heavily on making the leap to being the player his flashes suggest he can be.
Chicago selected Terry with the 18th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
There is a belief around the league that some in the organization would certainly like to see the energetic youngster get more playing time. He is averaging just 1.0 points per game and 0.5 assists with the big club, though his shooting splits still leave plenty to be desired beyond the free-throw line.
“They want to play him,” a rival exec told Heavy Sports’ NBA insider Sean Deveny, “there are a lot of people in the organization who feel like he can play now, but they have to sort out that logjam first. He can defend at an NBA level now. But he needs playing time.”
Terry asked to go to the G League to get that playing time showing his maturity at a young age, yet another way in which what he brings is not always quantifiable in the stat sheet.
“Energy? Check. Defense? Definitely. Hustle? Yup,” writes Mayberry.
Not That Simple
As Mayberry points out, the Bulls are 11-deep with capable performers making it difficult for Donovan to find consistent minutes for the 20-year-old Terry. That is especially true with the Donovan having to navigate the Bulls’ Big Three of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic sporting a minus-3.4 net rating (31st percentile), per Cleaning The Glass.
But Donovan did experiment with the starting lineup in the preseason, replacing Williams with another energetic player in Javonte Green.
He has also kept Williams off of the floor in the closing minutes of games like against Phoenix.
The Bulls are believed to have little to no interest in tanking for one of the top prospects in next year’s class. But if they keep racking up losses, the choice will be taken out of their hands in which case Terry would likely see more playing time anyway. So, why wait?