With four seconds left in the game, Yogi Ferrell grabbed a defensive rebound and raced down the court. The Dallas Mavericks were down two. On the other end, the Philadelphia 76ers blanketed Ferrell’s teammates. In doing so, they left a lane open to the rim. Ferrell attacked. The defense collapsed on him. Driving the lane, Ferrell drew contact as he went for a layup. With time ticking down, he shot. He missed. The ball rolled off the rim but the Sixers’ Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot fouled him.
Ferrell went to the line with the chance to tie the game at 112. 0.4 seconds remained. He stepped up to the stripe and shot. The ball bounced off the back rim. The crowd let out a collective sigh. For a shot to tie the game, Ferrell had to miss his second attempt and hope his teammates got a rebound and shot up quickly. The Mavericks got the board but time ran out. The Sixers held on to win, 112-110.
“It felt good, just strong – back rim,” Ferrell said after the game about his last-second free throws. “They say, normally that’s a good miss when it’s back rim. I went out there with confidence. I wanted to shoot those free throws. I felt like I could’ve made them, I just didn’t.”
Confidence is something Ferrell doesn’t lack. Even though he missed the late-game free throws, there’s nothing disappointing about the way he’s playing this season. In the absence of Seth Curry, Ferrell has stepped up and played well on both ends of the floor, doing whatever the team requires.
He might not start every game, but head coach Rick Carlisle calls his number often. Through seven games, only Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes have logged more minutes than Ferrell, who is averaging 31.6 minutes. His on-court production, along with the makeup of the roster, requires it. While Ferrell’s net rating of minus-7 doesn’t look good on paper, it belies his true impact.
Yogi is scoring 12.3 points per game and shooting 41.4 percent from the field. His 3-point shooting tops the team among players who see regular minutes at 46.4 percent. It’s invaluable when it comes to floor spacing. While the majority of his scoring comes from beyond the arc, 45.3 percent, Ferrell’s ability to attack the rim, draw contact, and get to the line are providing a fresh wrinkle for a team that hasn’t made many attempts from the charity stripe in recent years.
At the free throw line, he’s shooting 89.3 percent, the best on the team. His four attempts per game ties Dennis Smith Jr. for second most behind Harrison Barnes. In fact, 29.1 percent of Ferrell’s points come from free throws, which, again, is the highest mark on the team.
Defensively, despite giving up size almost nightly, Ferrell harries opposing guards. His quickness allows him to stick with his man along the perimeter and on drives. His active hands and court vision lead to 1.3 steals per game, another team high, and numerous deflections.
What’s clear so far is that the undrafted, second-year player has solidified his spot in the rotation. Nightly, he steps on to the court and makes plays to help the team on both ends. For a team looking to find ways to win, his reliability is invaluable.
“Everything’s tied together with this group,” Carlisle said recently. “Everyone’s depending on the next guy over -- it’s all a chain. If the chain gets broken, we’re not very good.”
With a 1-6 record, the chain is broken. However, the Mavs are playing better of late and a big reason for that is Yogi Ferrell. He’s one of the team’s strongest links.