Terrance Ferguson has plenty to prove, but lots to offer.
It was an interesting selection. Sam Presti armed with nothing but the 21st pick in a relatively deep NBA Draft decided to take a chance on the first American High School player to compete in Australia’s National Basketball League – Terrance Ferguson.
When Ferguson decided to play in Australia rather than go the college route, it raised a few eyebrows and plenty of people doubted the move and wondered how it may alter his draft stock (He was ranked the #10 prospect in the ESPN 100 heading into his senior High School season).
After all, even today, it’s a lot harder to properly scout a guy playing down under as opposed to power-conference college gyms. Though, the good news is, even following a mediocre debut season in the NBL, Ferguson was still touted to be a first-round-pick, and was snatched up by the Thunder.
First off, I’ll address the elephant in the room. The numbers. Ferguson played sparingly in Australia’s professional league, logging just 15.1 minutes per contest for the minor premier 36ers. He averaged 4.6 points per game, 1.2 rebounds per game and shot the 3 ball at just 31% - but you can’t galvanize everything from the stats. You need to understand what this kid is capable of, how he has spent his year maturing and just what he can bring to Loud City.
There has been plenty of speculation around this pick from outsiders and Thunder fans alike, but I feel like this might be the ONE time that living in Australia has its perks. I’ve actually seen Terrance Ferguson play, and even caught a couple of games live, so I feel I might have a bit more insight than some who have just seen scouting reports or highlight reels. So let me drop some knowledge on you.
Ferguson played for Joey Wright who has just been added to the Utah Jazz summer league coaching staff. Wright couldn’t praise Ferguson enough for his maturity and work ethic – and the kid is still a teenager. That speaks volumes for me. Also, Wright utilized Ferguson in a range of roles to see how he was best suited: so the numbers won’t always be a true representation, but he often played Ferguson during critical moments. He trusts him – and so do I.
The next thing we need to look at is the league and competition Ferguson faced. He was playing professionally, against grown men and Olympians – not fellow teenagers and college students.
In this environment, he more than held his own. While the NBA will be a different style and pace, you could see when you watched him, that his physical tools and gifts will only assist him at the next level. Don’t get caught up in the less-than-stellar numbers and percentages – they only tell one side of the conversation – take a look at what Ferguson was able to do at the Nike Hoops Summit for balance.
Now we come to the point in the piece where we discuss impact and fit.
Terrance Ferguson is a 19-year-old project. He is a bit raw, but he has plenty of upside. When you only have a later first-round-pick, you are rarely going to get a game changer, so you either take the best available player, the best fit, or the player with the most potential.
Sam Presti decided to grab a high-upside guy who also fills a need. There is no question that Andre Roberson will field offers this off-season and allow the market to determine his price. The Thunder have very limited financial flexibility right now, so Presti has “future proofed”.
This might mean that OKC can allow Roberson to walk and use that money to re-sign Taj Gibson which might allow further movement within the roster (Kanter anyone???).
While Jerami Grant & Josh Heustis are also reserve options if Roberson proves too costly, Ferguson is another good-sized wing who can play both sides of the ball. The added benefit, Ferguson is a solid catch-and-shoot guy from deep (regardless of the numbers).
In OKC, with Russell Westbrook handling most of the playmaking and ballhandling duties, Ferguson should be able to gain open looks without having to dribble the basketball, provided he finds rotation minutes in his rookie year.
That stated, the Thunder have sampled a number of wings who haven’t fit, and I understand why OKC fans are cautious. Anthony Morrow was shipped – a better shooter but poor defender, Doug McDermott has yet to find his feet or lateral movement defensively and can only be played in certain situations, and Alex Abrines suffers a similar fate. Ferguson is ahead of all of those guys defensively, but still needs to put on some bulk and flourish with the Thunder Summer League team.
Terrance Ferguson isn’t the piece that will get the Oklahoma City Thunder out of the first round. He isn’t going to be that third scoring option on the wing, and he won’t carry the second unit from a playmaking standpoint. Though, he will play hard, smart basketball. He will hopefully develop into a really nice player and might even show some flashes of brilliance in his rookie year. He’s exciting, athletic, and will be terrific in the open floor with Westbrook and co, but he won’t win Rookie of The Year.
So hold your boos and your poor draft grades until you actually get to see this guy play. I have and I’m excited as to what he might be – and that is a very good player for the Oklahoma City Thunder now and into the future.