Tyrell Terry’s skill makes him worthy of a lottery selection

Tyrell Terry is undersized at 6-foot-1, but a closer look at this skill-set and shooting versatility reveals a potential lottery prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft.

The top of the 2020 NBA draft is loaded with talented guard prospects. A crop of first-tier ball-handlers, among them LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes and Anthony Edwards, is emerging for many evaluators. Beyond those three, guards like Tyrese Maxey, Tyrese Haliburton, R.J. Hampton, Cole Anthony and more occupy the top 10 of many draft boards.

For many of these prospects, some physical or athletic tool is at the forefront of their appeal. Ball and Hayes are both tall initiator prospects, Edwards is a physical freak, Maxey has brute strength. While many of these players have flaws in their physical or athletic profile, none have close to the deficiencies Stanford freshman guard Tyrell Terry has. Listed 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, many will write off Terry’s NBA prospects because of his frame. His athletic deficiencies pop on tape, lacking high-tier burst, strength and vertical explosion:

Tools are vital to NBA success. Maybe more than anything else, the NBA is characterized as a league full of freakish athletes. Stardom is difficult to achieve without plus tools. Despite those truths, Tyrell Terry grades out as a lottery prospect on my board. So what makes him special, and how can he overcome his physical deficiencies?

Terry stars in maybe the other most important quality for an initiator prospect in the modern NBA: shooting. Simply, Tyrell Terry’s shooting projection is elite. Looking at the numbers — 90.2 percent on 82 free throws, 39.7 percent from 3 on 9.1 attempts per 100 possessions — it is easy to buy into Terry as a high-level NBA shooter. Looking further into the tape only bolsters this projection.

Terry’s 3s come from a diet of often-tough pull-ups, 3s off of movements and shots from well beyond the NBA line. A pick-and-roll orchestrator, Terry routinely pulls up after rounding a screen, unbothered by contests:

Terry’s main shooting red flag is his mechanical issues. Notice how he flails his legs on the way down from his shot, with more leg movement on some shots than others. With help from @polarfall on biomechanical specificities, Terry’s lower body weakness means he needs to compensate at deeper ranges, so he propels off the ground with his lower body harder, leading to less control over his lower body.

These mechanical and strength issues are coachable. With strength training and shooting development, Terry can iron out his mechanical kinks in time. What is not coachable is touch, which Terry is bubbling with. Routinely draining difficult shots is often a sign of elite-level touch masquerading as dumb luck. Take the first clip above, with Terry hitting from way beyond the NBA line under duress. Some good fortune is in play here, but Terry has the touch to make these plays with consistency, which is the key.

Range is another key facet of Terry’s shooting projection. Especially considering his athletic troubles, deep range will force defenses to guard Terry multiple feet beyond the line, increasing his gravity and opening easier shots for himself and his teammates. Not only can he pull-up from the logo, but he sprints into long-range bombs off of screens. Terry’s off-screen sample isn’t huge, but he’s posted excellent efficiency here, placing in the 90th percentile on 15 attempts, with a 73.3 effective field goal percentage.

Not only is Terry’s shot versatility encouraging for his prospects at the next level, but it further buoys his case as a knockdown shooter:

Though Terry sometimes struggles to penetrate due to his lack of burst, he’s a top-tier guard finisher when he slithers to the rim. He’s shooting 63 percent at the rim in the half-court, placing in the 83rd percentile. Stanford’s offense plays to Terry’s strengths and opens pathways to the paint: He rarely isolates (2.4 percent of his offense), runs loads of pick-and-rolls (31.2 percent of his offense) and often sprints around off-ball before initiating offense.

Without vertical explosion to finish above the rim, Terry relies on his feathery touch to float in all manner of difficult layups. His footwork, balance and craft at the rim are all excellent. Terry doesn’t utilize the floater much (33.3 percent on 15 attempts), but he would benefit greatly from developing a reliable floater in lieu of getting all the way to the basket.

Again, his tendency to drop in circus shots with relative consistency is a massive positive indicator of touch and shooting/scoring upside:

Because Terry often can’t burn defenders off the dribble with pure speed, his handling goodness is hidden from sight. Terry has the ball on a string, controlling pace masterfully and rarely losing his handle. He’s excellent navigating screens, manipulating defenders with quick changes of pace and direction to get his shot:

Aside from his scoring prowess, Tyrell Terry is a top-tier passer in this draft class. Passing the ball on 36 percent of his pick-and-roll possessions, he’s a technician with the ball, lasering passes to the roller and to shooters with pristine timing and accuracy, along with the craft to whip passes off the live dribble. On many of these plays, Stanford involves Terry in off-ball motion pre PNR, scrambling help defense and further cracking windows to pass through:

On the drive, Terry collapses defenses and has the vision and craft to skip the ball out to shooters or dump down to big men:

Stanford regularly clears the floor for big men on the block, knowing Terry will drop entry passes in the bucket, leading his teammates to easy layups:

26.8 percent of Terry’s offense comes in transition where his vision and aggression pushing tempo creates open shots aplenty. From early hit-aheads, no-look whip passes and precisely timed dropoffs, Terry’s transition passing generates easy baskets:

High-tier vision, timing, anticipation and craft culminate in some “wow” plays that are hallmarks of spectacular passes, the plays that send jaws careening to the floor and freeze defenses. Sometimes, Terry uncorks a pass that has, well, everything. A rapid decision on the catch, a baseball skip on the money to the weak corner (shoot the ball, Isaac White!) and a look off for good measure:

Terry’s frame inherently makes his path to defensive neutrality, let alone positivity difficult. Yet, of any players of his stature, Terry has a chance to that impact due to legitimately great defensive instincts and anticipation. At 6-foot-1, Terry has a 2.8 percent steal rate and a 3.8 Defensive Box Plus-Minus. The latter number is somewhat fickle, but only 15 guards in the nation 6-foot-1 or shorter have higher than a 2 percent steal rate and 3.5 DBPM.

Terry has defensive foibles — attackers blow by him, he allows cutters to slip behind him and his motor stalls — but every freshman has defensive issues. What he does exhibit defensively as a small freshman guard, legitimate team defensive impact, is spectacular. He’ll blow up action from the weak side, make plays at the nail and reject shots on ball:

Tyrell Terry is likely going to be a good-great NBA shooter and passer. The question is, then, to what degree will his physical limitations suppress his supreme skill? Or, can Terry add muscle to his lower body to add strength and stability? Will he grow an inch or two?

Terry’s rim efficiency likely drops at the NBA level, as, despite his touch, craft and peripheral finishing tools, the caliber of athlete is at another level. Teams will hunt him, especially in the playoffs, but his help defense should be a positive as his motor and defensive technique mature.

Given his tools, it will be very difficult for Terry to achieve star impact. Few prospects in this class can claim that, though. He has a realistic path to good starter upside as a secondary type creator. Even if he can’t get to the rim, a path to impact exists through elite shooting and playmaking. Devonte’ Graham is shooting 40.5 percent at the rim, yet he places 65th in PIPM.

In a draft lacking top-end upside, Terry is a solid bet in the lottery as a prospect who offers upside depending on the degrees of his shooting, passing goodness and physical development. Tyrell Terry might not have enough steam to declare this season. If he doesn’t, physical and skill development could vault him up draft boards, despite the strength of next year’s class. With a strong finish and postseason, Terry’s projection as an off-ball creator with elite shooting and high-level passing, handling and defensive instincts makes for an intriguing gamble early in this draft.