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Don’t hit the panic button on Dalen Terry just yet

The day Dalen Terry was selected 18th overall by the Chicago Bulls was the same day that enormous expectations would forever be placed on his shoulders. While Chicago has a lot to offer as a city, it’s often hard for young athletes to please the fans here in the Windy City.

Before Dalen, there was Bobby Portis. And Denzel Valentine. And Lauri Markkanen. And Wendell Carter Jr. Pretty soon, Coby White will be set to face his judgment day too. Rookies have very rarely been given a long time to develop in this city. Here in Chicago, you either sink or you swim. Those aforementioned players all sank.

Every now and then, however, you stumble across a swimmer. Jimmy Butler was a swimmer, for instance. Taj Gibson too, with Ayo Dosunmu also already doggy-paddling his way along. I believe Terry belongs with this group. From his mannerisms, unselfish attitude, and willingness to put the work in, I feel like there’s a very high chance Terry becomes a solid NBA player.

But here’s not there yet, as witnessed by his first two performances in the Las Vegas Summer League. Thus far, Dalen is averaging 11 points, 4.5 assists, 3 rebounds, and a whopping 6.5 turnovers per game. He’s also shot 6-for-14 from the field and only hit 1-of-4 attempts from deep.

There’s no way around it, these numbers don’t inspire much confidence when you take them at face value. But I haven’t lost faith yet, not even close.

Two lackluster performances in the Summer League aren’t nearly enough to begin panicking over Dalen Terry and the Chicago Bulls’ vision for the future.

Sure, it’s easy to look at those box score statistics and haphazardly dismiss Terry as a prospect. But to me, it shows he’s willing to experiment and try things out that he would not have gotten the chance to otherwise.

If the Chicago Bulls want Dalen to be a secondary playmaker on the main roster this season, what harm is there in allowing him to go out there and test his boundaries? The 6.5 turnovers per game sure aren’t pretty to look at, but you have to factor in that he’s assuming a larger role than he would in the regular season as well as the fact that he’s passing to less-talented teammates that can’t capitalize on the shot opportunities he’s creating for them.

It’s hard not to watch this and be reminded of the fire that Jimmy Butler had with the Bulls that helped propel him to become a genuine NBA superstar. Terry may never reach those heights, but you can tell he has a passion for competing that the Bulls seemed to lack all too often last season.

Dalen isn’t the type of player who’s just happy to be here. He’s not here to soak up the moment, because to him, this is just another stop on the way to bigger things. He’s going to continue working on his game and making the necessary improvements to become a good, possibly even a great NBA player.

Fellow Bulls writer Michael Walton put together a very interesting article highlighting Dalen’s best assists thus far in Summer League play, and I think it’s well worth the read. In the article, you can see Terry’s vision is impeccable and he’s capable of dropping precise dimes at a moment’s notice.

This is a trait that Alex Caruso brought to the table for the Chicago Bulls last season and it made a world of a difference. For that reason, I’m excited to see Terry contribute a little bit of that as well and make the offense come even easier for Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and the rest of the Bulls’ offense.

So while Terry hasn’t been the greatest in Summer League play (so far, that’s subject to change at any moment), I don’t think it actually matters too much. If you can recall, Dosunmu also struggled mightily in last year’s Summer League. Even Derrick Rose was downright terrible in the 2008 Summer League in Orlando, where he averaged just 9.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 4 turnovers per game.

That’s why it’s important to not get overly reactionary to Dalen’s early struggles, or his frustration in post-game interviews. Even Rose proved to be irritable about his pre-season struggles, “You don’t want to know what I think [about how I played]… I think I played bad. We didn’t win and I think I played horrible. But tomorrow is a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day, indeed. Dalen Terry still has 3 games to turn things around. And even if he doesn’t manage that, he has another 82 coming right up after that. When it’s all said and done and the 2022-23 season concludes, I think we’ll be happy to have had Dalen around for the journey.

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