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Tyrell Terry will shoot his shot

The Orlando Magic are in desperate need of shooting. Stanford’s Tyrell Terry fits the bill as a player capable of hitting and shooting from anywhere.

Trae Young came into the basketball world at just the right time.

Stephen Curry was in the middle of an incredible Finals run that had reshaped the NBA around his floor-spacing and warping shooting ability. His ability to weave through defenses and finish at the rim despite his slight frame — who remembers that skinny kid from Davidson? — with the same adeptness that he pulled up from 35 feet or from the mid-court logo changed the league.

Everyone wanted to find that guy who could both handle the ball, dish to his teammates and control the tempo and tenor of the game.

This is the world Trae Young entered. As he lit up the scoreboard at Oklahoma, the comparisons came for him immediately. As much as he tried to shed them — and they are not the same player — there was no denying the influence and the way NBA scouts viewed his potential.

It has helped Young has lived up to the hype in so many ways — even to the point Orlando Magic fans still lament a 101-92 win over the Washington Wizards on the final day of the 2018 regular season.

There are so many teams with gravity-warping guards that have become superstar players. And undoubtedly, the value in this league of pace and space of having a point guard who can shoot off the dribble, drive to the basket and dish out is as much a unicorn as the 7-footer who can hit from the outside and pass.

There are no players that stand out in all those areas in this Draft. This draft has plenty of those versatile forwards that teams always talk themselves into every draft and its fair share of shooters. But none of those landmark or premiere perimeter juggernauts.

Of those players though, Stanford Cardinal point guard Tyrell Terry is likely the closest. And while he is not the overwhelming shooter those other prospects are, he is a skilled enough shooter and crafty enough scorer to become a valuable weapon to whomever drafts him.

The one thing that is more than abundant is that Terry is not going to be afraid to shoot his shot. And for a Magic team desperate for shooters and players who can create their own space and shooting, that has to put him high on their radar.

So much so that, he has clearly put himself in conversation to go in the Lottery after many executives and even his coach at Stanford seemed to believe he was destined to return to Palo Alto for his sophomore year.

That is a testament to Terry’s work ethic (as Jackson Frank of The Step Back detailed), an intangible quality that NBA scouts always love.

Terry averaged 14.6 points per game and 3.2 assists per game in his freshman year last year. He shot 40.8 percent from beyond the arc on 4.9 3-point attempts per game and posted a 53.5-percent effective field goal percentage. He did all this efficiency on a 24.5-percent usage rate, the kind of moderate usage rate you expect from a primary scorer.

The shooting comparison

Comparing Tyrell Terry to Stephen Curry, Trae Young and their ilk is unfair to Terry, of course. He was nowhere near as ball-dominant in college. He does not have all the point-guard skills either. He was not a particularly great playmaker at the collegiate level — remember, Young’s passing was one of his greatest attributes coming out of college and without that, he would have been just another undersized shooter.

But when you watch Terry play, you see the craft in his game.

He has bounce and a rhythm to his game that suggests he can grow into that shooting playmaker that follows some of the best undersized point guards in the league.

Terry can pull-up from three anywhere. He can work off screens and get into his shot quickly. He does not have the quick release or escape dribble shooting that Young and Curry have — but again, those are the elite of the elite and that kind of comparison is a bit unfair.

Stanford never fully unleashed Terry as a shooter. Off-guard Oscar da Silva had a usage rate greater than 30-percent for the Cardinal that year. Terry was doing all this work while not playing as the team’s primary option.

That certainly suggests his statistics are depressed a bit. And so the promise of that efficiency with a team willing to hand him more responsibility is ever-present. It is quite possible the league is underrating Terry a ton at this point.

What separates him from being just another great shooter is his ability to get into the lane. His shooting is what will get him into the league, but it is his driving and finishing that will keep him in it for a long time.

Terry is very creative and crafty finishing near the basket though. Despite his slight frame — 6-foot-3, listed at 160 pounds — he knows how to weave through traffic and find space to get to the rim and finish with creativity.

Terry showed that creativity in transition too. He does not have blinding end-to-end speed. But that cleverness to finish at the rim in the half-court is on display too in transition. Terry is smart enough to know how to use space and get to the basket with the same creativity, pace and adeptness in transition.

A tall order

Tyrell Terry still has plenty of questions. He is not elite enough at his shooting or any of those other skills to go all in on him. There are still plenty of questions of what his ceiling could be.

He is not an elite athlete. Terry is not about to dunk on anyone in transition — although that may be something he has tried to add in the course of the last six months. But that is not a vital part of his game.

His ability to run the point and be a better playmaker for others is. And here, it is not clear exactly what he can do.

He may not be a great passer yet. But all the tools for him to develop as a passer are there — his threat as a shooter, his ability to get into the lane and his threat to finish at the basket. This is the part where everyone has to be reminded he was only a freshman last year.

There is still a lot of room to grow.

And a lot of that playmaking will come as he develops a feel for the game and the pace of the NBA. More experience handling the ball and learning where teammates will be will help him immensely.

As with all small guards entering the league, the biggest question will be Terry’s defense. He was very small at Stanford — even at 6-foot-3 thanks to his listed weight of 160 pounds.

It is not that Terry was not willing to defend and get after players. But it is certainly not his strong suit. At this point, he is probably best described as a pesky defender when he is fully engaged. He has a long way to go to becoming a “good” defender in that way.

And he may never reach that. His size and strength just may put him in that bin of guys you have to cover for despite his best efforts and attention to defending.

Terry has put in his work to add strength. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports he was up to 170 pounds at the Combine in October and he hopes to be at 175 before the season begins. Those are promising signs. As are the reports that he is dunking more and showing off improved strength and bounce.

The biggest need

For the Orlando Magic, it all goes back to the one NBA-ready skill Terry has: His shooting.

The Magic are in desperate need of 3-point threats. They need someone who can stretch the defense and get them to defend. They need someone with a bit of creative spark who can get his own shot against set defenses. They need that improvisational ability off the bounce.

Terry is not the elite at any of those things. He does not project to be a superstar player, although he can certainly get there if his shooting proves better than it looked in college. But realistically, Terry will be a sharpshooter coming off the bench who can handle starting point guard duties when needed.

Knowing the Magic’s penchant for playing their five best players as much as possible. Terry could also be the kind of shooter that allows the Magic to play two-guard lineups. And having more ballhandling and creating on the floor is never a bad thing.

The Magic certainly need help at point guard right now.

Terry is not afraid to shoot his shot. Even staying in this Draft was considered a major risk for him. But he has made the most of his time and his skills have clearly made some impact on his draft stock.

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