Ryan Dunn, Oso Ighodaro will get maximized by Suns in NBA

Jul 3, 2024, 7:03 AM | Updated: 7:57 am

Phoenix Suns rookies Ryan Dunn and Oso Ighodaro with GM James Jones...

Phoenix Suns rookies Ryan Dunn and Oso Ighodaro with GM James Jones (Screenshot/Suns YouTube)

(Screenshot/Suns YouTube)

PHOENIX — The gap in how college basketball is played in comparison to the National Basketball Association always leaves plenty of room for optimism when evaluating how a prospect translates to the next level.

This applies to the Phoenix Suns’ two draft picks, Virginia’s Ryan Dunn at 28th overall at the No. 40 selection Oso Ighodaro out of Marquette.

Dunn’s Cavaliers under head coach Tony Bennett have been known for years now as a plodding offensive team, lucky to reach a point total in the 70s or 80s, an intentional effort to control pace. In KenPom’s adjusted tempo, which calculates the amount of possessions a team has per game, Virginia ranked dead last in the country. That is 362nd out of 362 teams.

Dunn is a hyper-athletic wing with an explosive physical profile best utilized in transition and with as much space as possible. Considering he’s a limited offensive player at this time as well, it’s even more important for him to get chances on the run. That was of no interest to Virginia.

“I really enjoy watching players maximize their potential. He’s a guy from an athletic standpoint that has so many gifts that he just needs the opportunity to display,” Suns general manager James Jones said Tuesday of Dunn. “And I think you saw it in college. In college, there’s not a lot of space. In college, the game is I would say bounded. We hope to unbound him and allow him to excel and I think he’ll do well right from the jump.”

“My offense was a little bit different, more methodical like you said,” Dunn said. “But I think learning the pace and getting up and down more and being more in transition on offense is going to help me a lot.”

Ighodaro is on the other side of it.

“At Marquette, we ran a lot of NBA offense,” he said. “Just free flowing, 5 out. I feel like it really prepared me to play in a system like this, with a team like this. My playmaking and ball skills will be really good for this team as a connector.”

Ighodaro served as a hub of the offense, able to reset it multiple times on the same possession. It was not uncommon to see him run a dribble handoff or pick-and-roll on one side of the floor with an empty corner, only for the play to not go anywhere and start over from a similar position, flipped to the other side. That is not something you can do just on a whim in college. Marquette played him as the heart of the offense’s rhythm along with point guard Tyler Kolek, allowing that process to function properly.

The Golden Eagles used screen sequences like double drag and matchup hunted often. Ighodaro won’t need as much of a learning curve as other big men in the position most difficult to learn for rookies. As he said, playing off three high-level scorers will get the most out of his ability as a passer.

The biggest area for either prospect where this is relevant is Dunn and his 3-point shooting. His shooting efficiency is among the lowest seen for any recent first-round draft pick. But there are a few details to not overlook after noting his career 23.5% 3-point percentage or 52.5% free-throw percentage.

For one, Dunn mechanically is better than you’re imagining. There is not a massive overhaul required. And to go back to the lack of pace, Dunn’s hesitancy to shoot at Virginia might have at times been due to the team wanting to keep a possession going. You’ll see a handful of possessions with 15-20 seconds left on the shot clock when he’s kicking it back out so the time can keep crawling.

Perhaps that was by instruction. Either way, Dunn certainly wasn’t deployed in a position to be a high-volume 3-point shooter. He attempted a total of 51 across two seasons.

Jones, someone who knows a thing or two about a good jump shot, thinks that was part of it. And he saw a kid with something to prove during his pre-draft workout with Phoenix.

“They settled on their roles,” Jones said of the two rookies in college. “And for [Dunn], his role was to not shoot 3s. And so when he came in, evidently he knew that was a narrative that was surrounding him. He shot the ball exceptionally well, shot it with confidence and what we realized is there was a lot of room for growth but the fundamentals and the base was there. I think you’ll find with the game’s best players, these guys, the more volume they have the better they get.

“I have no doubt he’ll be a capable and above capable shooter in the near future.”

The low volume will not be the case in the pros. Teams are going to leave Dunn open and he’s going to need to let them fly. He’s aware.

Dunn was asked if there was any eagerness going into his pre-draft workouts knowing what was on his scouting report in regards to his jumper. He was eager to answer the question too, cutting it off to get right to it.

“Sorry to (cut you off),  I was so excited,” Dunn said. “Just showing off what I can do and how I can shoot it after that was a whole talking point of my whole draft process. … Not just even in Phoenix. Everywhere I went. It was just show that I can do a little bit more. And it’s still improving.”

Dunn has a swing skill unlike perhaps any other prospect in this entire draft class. If he can find a way to avoid being a detriment offensively, he will make a few All-Defense teams before his career is wrapped up. Dunn is that magnificent as a defender. So, if he can be just a league average 3-point shooter, Dunn becomes one of the more valuable 3-and-D wings in all of basketball immediately.

Does he believe those numbers misrepresent the shooter he actually is?

“I would say yes,” Dunn said.

If that winds up being the case, ooh boy did the Suns pull off a heist on draft night.

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