EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

22 for 22: Is the best NBA Draft wing for Suns Terrence Shannon Jr. or Johnny Furphy?

Jun 25, 2024, 11:35 AM

Terrence Shannon Jr. #0 of the Illinois Fighting Illini dunks the ball against the Iowa State Cyclo...

Terrence Shannon Jr. #0 of the Illinois Fighting Illini dunks the ball against the Iowa State Cyclones during the first half in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at TD Garden on March 28, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The ideal use of the Phoenix Suns’ 22nd pick in the 2024 NBA Draft would be on a wing.

Phoenix has capable supplementary pieces on the perimeter surrounding Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant in Grayson Allen and Royce O’Neale (assuming he is back). The problem is O’Neale is 6-foot-6 and Allen is 6-foot-4, on the small side of wings. But with neither guy possesses the high-end quickness to be a major deterrent on the ball defensively, either.

The Suns getting someone who is either on the large end or very speedy end of the wing designation — and someone who can play right away — would finish off the wing rotation. In a high-end outcome for the prospect, maybe that person could even give the Suns their long-term fifth starter.

Is that guy in this class? Maybe! We already went in-depth on Colorado’s Tristan da Silva, who should get swooped up by the playoff hopefuls just ahead of the Suns in this draft: the Philadelphia 76ers (No. 16), Los Angeles Lakers (No. 17), Orlando Magic (No. 18), Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 20) or New Orleans Pelicans (No. 21). If da Silva slips, though, he’s the best option.

Beyond him, there’s a bit of a drop when it comes to the expert consensus. There is no agreement on another wing who belongs in the high teens or low 20s. Some other names to keep an eye on are Miami’s Kyshawn George, Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman, Virginia’s Ryan Dunn, Sweden’s Bobi Klintman and G League Ignite’s Tyler Smith.

Two prospects, however, separate themselves from that grouping based on what the Suns desire and where they stack up against their peers.

The first is Kansas’ Johnny Furphy.

The overwhelming majority of perimeter players entering a draft are the man on their team until they get into the league. Not the case for the freshman Furphy, who was fifth for the Jayhawks in shots per game and took over half of his total attempts (206) from 3 (125). He made 35.2% of ’em and a 76.5% conversion rate on free throws bodes even better for a pretty optimistic outlook on a 6-foot-8 shooter as it is.

The rest of Furphy’s offense is filling in gaps. The Mikal Bridges special. Cuts. Loose balls. Transition. Offensive rebounds. And so forth. Furphy had a ridiculous 75% of his rim makes assisted, per Hoop-Math, and took just 21 shots that weren’t at the basket or behind the 3-point line.

The gap-filling makes him impactful enough beyond the 3s. Like Bridges, he will have games when it feels like he’s everywhere.

 

What’s difficult to get away from with Furphy is asking, “What else?” The goal on defense is to avoid being enough of a liability to get targeted so his smart off-ball stuff can pop more. In the clips above on the ball, you can still see he’s getting beat. He’s clearly a high-IQ guy so perhaps with NBA space and playing in more 0.5 spots he would generate more as a playmaker. It was 33 assists to 28 turnovers, which you’ll take in college given how little he got the ball.

The shooting is not at an elite level. This was not a guy coming around movement for Kansas. He was staying in the corners and drilling his catch-and-shoot looks when he got them.

To be clear, this is not too worrying for NBA teams. Furphy’s got a ton of buzz in the pre-draft process from teams that are up once the lottery ends, and he could be gone by No. 22.

A selection of Furphy would be a bet on his potential at 19 years old, that more is on the way skill-wise and that his energy wing traits can be significant enough in the meantime. It wouldn’t be that bad of a pick, but there are more rewarding ways to attack the pick.

In my opinion, the top wing on the board (and overall fit for Phoenix) will be Illinois wing Terrence Shannon Jr.

Shannon was found not guilty of felony rape and aggravated assault earlier this month. He was initially suspended six games in late December for the incident before getting granted a temporary restraining order to finish out the season. It is obviously a concerning top of the report on a prospect and it is encouraged for you to read up on the details of the trial to know more.

The summary is it was argued by the defense to be a case of mistaken identity. Shannon said he never saw the woman in question at the bar both were at in September, multiple witnesses said they didn’t see any wrongdoing from Shannon and the woman later identified Shannon while looking up the Illinois men’s basketball team.

The trial affected Shannon’s draft stock, leaving him on the edge of the first round, while the recent conclusion will see him more of a threat to go in the 20s.

Shannon spent three seasons as an energetic role player for Texas Tech before exploding two seasons ago with Illinois, quickly establishing himself as one of the best players in the country. After dominating the Big Ten Tournament to set the scoring record for the top conference in college basketball, he racked up 85 points in his first 98 minutes of the NCAA Tournament before Connecticut’s interior defense led by lottery pick Donovan Clingan put a stop to his tremendous postseason run.

At nearly 6-foot-7 with a strong 220-pound frame, Shannon is the most explosive slasher in this draft. He absolutely flies in transition, to the point where you think he’s out of control, but he’s not. It’s a lightning-quick first step and he grew as a driver to stop being dependent on his left hand, with a handle that has some shake to it so it’s not just line-drive stuff. He took nearly nine free throws per game, knocking down 80.1% of ’em, and was a legitimate pull-up weapon on 3s.

He was unstoppable. Here’s the Big Ten Tournament montage.

Shannon shot 36.2% on 6.7 triples a game, with only 60.5% of those being assisted, per Hoop-Math. He actually shot it better off the bounce statistically, giving him an easy path to becoming a good NBA shooter by improving on catch-and-shoot looks.

The momentum really picks up when Shannon’s defensive tape gets on the screen. He showed a desire to stay attached off the ball, mind you all while finishing third in scoring for the NCAA. There were lulls for sure that will get highlighted, but again, this came with him having to defend top options at times while being the top option too.

His offensive role will shrink in comparison, so the potential for Shannon once fully dedicating himself defensively points toward someone who will be a positive on that end rather quickly.

Shannon turns 24 years old in late July and the lack of a midrange game caps his scoring upside. But that’s really all there is to dislike here within his game. He is not a playmaker, possessing poor assist numbers for a high-usage guard, but there was enough of making the “right pass” in rotation situations where his 0.5 decision-making as a role player should be tolerable.

Shannon’s shooting allows him to succeed off the ball, and his rim pressure will thrive in NBA space through a more supplementary role. His energy, frame and speed on defense has him equipped to be an impact guy if he can pick up the ins and outs.

There are not five guys in this class more ready for effective NBA minutes right now than him. Yes, including the guys at the top. That makes him a no-brainer fit-wise for Phoenix alone, and when considering the Suns’ severe lack of athleticism, Shannon’s surely high up on their board.

It sounds like that is the case for other teams in Phoenix’s range. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported Shannon’s catchup game in the workout space included four organizations drafting in the teens.

If Shannon can really apply himself this summer to grow as a catch-and-shoot threat and lock in early on the defensive nuances, he could get serious minutes right away, to the point where starting by the end of the year isn’t out of the question for a best-case scenario.

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22 for 22: Is the best NBA Draft wing for Suns Terrence Shannon Jr. or Johnny Furphy?