How Terrance Ferguson can emulate Danny Green to improve his game

Terrance Ferguson, OKC Thunder (Photos by Darren Carroll/NBAE via Getty Images)
Terrance Ferguson, OKC Thunder (Photos by Darren Carroll/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Danny Green, Toronto Raptors (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Point-of-attack defense

Finding his pulse offensively is important, sure, but it’s arguably more important for him to find a way to add something his game on the other side.

But before we get into what exactly he needs to improve next season, it’s important to acknowledge the steps he took last year.

Even with all the growth he made, though, his impact was still a clear level below where it should’ve been. He could always shut down whoever he was covering but either due to OKC’s depth or a general distrust in his ability to handle more, the guys Ferguson was assigned to always looked more like Seth Curry and Evan Turner than like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

To his credit, he usually did about as well as you could’ve asked. Like in the possession below where he tracks Curry around the court, runs him off the three-point line, and essentially forces Lillard to create a shot at the end of the clock:

What Ferguson did here is important and it led to a stop, but the Blazers offense only relies on Curry so much – Portland won’t collapse if Curry can’t shake loose, after all. As such, Ferguson’s impact can only extend so far. For him to start impacting the game defensively in a more meaningful way like, say, Paul George, his point-of-attack defense needs to take a substantial leap. To do so, it might help to look at Danny Green.

Green, for as dangerous a shooter as he can be, has long been one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Like most great perimeter defenders, Green has a strong physical profile – 6’6″, 215 lbs, with a 6’10” wingspan – and the instincts to hang with the vast majority of wings one-on-one.

But part of what separates both him and Ferguson is their ability to absorb contact and stick to stronger players. In the play below, for instance, Green shuts off the left side for Eric Bledsoe – one of the strongest guards in the league – tracks him as he drives right, soaks up the contact from Bledsoe, and gets the steal at just the right moment.

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Now, let’s take a look at a throwaway play in OKC’s first game of the playoffs last season. First, McCollum tries to throw a hard left-to-right crossover which TFerg picks up right away.

Then Ferguson absorbs the momentum as CJ tries to lower his shoulder and bully his way to the basket.

Right after that, Ferguson sticks his hands up the moment McCollum goes up for the shot, which forces him to double pump and barely graze the bottom of the net:

Honestly, Ferguson isn’t that far away from Green as a point-of-attack defender. Both use their incredible body control and quick feet to stick with even the most athletically dominant guards, and both are uniquely adept at anticipating and disrupting plays before they happen. The biggest difference is the experience. In Green, we have one of the most consistent wing defenders in the league who’s been part of some of the best defensive performances we’ve seen; in Ferguson, we have a relatively untested yet athletically dominant young wing who’s just starting to find his way in the NBA.

This is usually the part where I’d go into how Ferguson gets to where Green is and why he’s not there yet, but in this case, it’s really just about reps. On a technical level, Ferguson is surprisingly sound with his good footwork, quick hip rotations, and shot anticipation, so there’s not a whole lot that he can work on there.

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Physically, while not as strong as Green, he’s a far more dynamic horizontal athlete than Green ever was, and has the tools to become an all-defense caliber player as soon as next season. It’s just about getting the opportunity.