Bulls make critical decision regarding Dalen Terry’s future

Dalen Terry, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Dalen Terry, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

When the Chicago Bulls drafted Dalen Terry 18th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft, they had high hopes he could become a multi-dimensional piece on this team for years to come. The front office projected Terry as a versatile defender who could also distribute the ball as a secondary ball handler and stretch the floor with his shooting.

So far, that projection has… not exactly panned out. Dalen has struggled mightily to earn himself a spot in the rotation and minutes out there on the court. Even in the preseason and Summer League, Terry has failed to produce results that would inspire any confidence in the young forward.

This has been a particularly big blow for the Bulls, as several extremely promising rookies were drafted within 5 spots ahead (Jalen Duren, Mark Williams, Tari Eason) or 5 spots behind (Walker Kessler, Christian Braun, Malaki Branham) Terry. There were several better options on the board, even if Chicago was unwilling to trade to move up like the Knicks, Pistons, and Thunder did.

Terry’s struggles have culminated in him being sent back down to the G League to continue developing his skills. If he’s not NBA-ready now, there’s really no reason to have him on the sidelines. It’s not surprising then, that the Bulls opted to assign Dalen to the Windy City Bulls in the G League on Monday.

Dalen Terry’s future with the Bulls hangs in the balance as he comes to an interesting crossroads.

Ideally, playing an extended stretch in the G League will help him establish the confidence he needs to continue playing at a high level in the NBA. Here’s what Billy Donovan had to say about Chicago’s decision to demote the former No. 18 pick:

"“They started training camp (Monday) so with where the opportunity to play (with us) is at and the number of bodies we have, getting him started there with those guys and getting practice and scrimmages in is beneficial. They have a pretty short training camp before they start playing some games. I think that’s what he needs… It’s great he’s with us at times. But I don’t know if we want to keep him with us if he’s not going to be in the rotation.”"

From a practical standpoint, it makes sense to give Terry the keys to an inferior team to see just what he can do in a larger role. But here’s where things started to get a little interesting, as the Bulls waited until Tuesday’s deadline to decide whether or not they wished to pick up Terry’s team option for next season.

It’s extremely rare for a team to decline a rookie’s team option, especially one from the mid-first round, but the fact it was a real possibility in the first place is a huge indicator of the lack of faith this front office has in Terry. CHGO Sports’ Mark K makes a great point in that Bulls’ management may be handcuffed into keeping Dalen around for now, but if he doesn’t show improvements soon, it could end up amounting to no more dead cap on the payroll for Chicago.

The Bulls did end up picking up Dalen’s team option in the end, per NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. Terry is set to make $3.35 million this season, $3.51 million next season, and will earn $5.4 million in 2025-26 if Chicago picks up his fourth-year option.

As for the time being, Dalen is essentially dead money for a Bulls team that’s trying to win now. If he’s not going to have a spot in the rotation or even be available on the bench, all he’s doing is taking up a roster spot that could otherwise be used on a talented veteran. Even if the Bulls do decide to execute a rebuild, he hasn’t exactly shown anything that would inspire confidence in him being a core piece of a youth movement.

I don’t wish to cast too harsh of a critique on the second-year forward, as he does appear to have the right attitude and a willingness to put in the work to succeed. However, Terry is not a viable option for a real NBA lineup at this point in time, and he has a lot of work left to do if he wants to win the fans back over.

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