Ryan Dunn Selected 28th In NBA Draft, Expected To Land In Phoenix

Virginia CavaliersRyan Dunn became the fifth player selected in the first round of the NBA Draft during the Tony Bennett era. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/TheSabre.com

Sitting in the stands at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Ryan Dunn listened to his childhood dreams come true just minutes away from his childhood home. The Denver Nuggets selected Dunn with the 28th pick in the 2024 NBA Draft on Wednesday night after just two years in the Virginia basketball program. Dunn, born and raised in Freeport, New York, is reportedly being traded to the Phoenix Suns.

“Dreaming of being in this position, walking across that stage …, hearing my name be called and walking across that stage, it all came true,” Dunn said in a post-draft interview. “So it was God given to be here.”

Dunn also said he is excited to join the Suns, who are chasing an NBA Championship with a roster that includes Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal.

“I’m excited. Great program. They want to go win a championship and they’ve got great players to do it,” Dunn said. “I’m excited to get down there and go to work and see what I’ve got to do just to get there.”

The Suns’ star trio creates a lot of offense, which should take some pressure off of Dunn, whose biggest criticism has been whether his shooting and skillset on offense could fit on an NBA roster. He averaged 8.1 points as a sophomore at Virginia while shooting 20.0% on a limited 35 3-point attempts and 53.2% on 77 free throw attempts. That dropped from his later high school numbers when he shot 44.0% from 3-point range for Long Island Lutheran in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Kevin O’Connor, an NBA analyst for The Ringer plus The Mismatch and the Draft Show podcast, made a social media post highlighting how that shooting clip might not matter as much with Phoenix. Calling it “perfect” because Dunn “can screen, catch lobs, cut” which works when “surrounded by all Phoenix’s shooters.” O’Connor also noted that if the 3-point shooting swings back toward his high school numbers, then Dunn has “major upside.” That’s the sort of breakdown that had pushed Dunn into the first round of many mock drafts this month and what ultimately led to his spot in the first round Wednesday night.

Dunn said he thinks he can get his shooting on track.

“I think I can,” Dunn said. “It’s just getting a lot of reps and practice, getting ready to get the confidence to let it go. That’s what I’m going to try to do now in Phoenix is be in the gym a lot and [see] what I’ve got to do.”

Of course, the main reason Dunn heard his name called as a top 30 pick comes from the other end of the floor. He stood out as one of the top defensive players in college basketball last season, particulary as a rangy help defender. He posted 6.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocked shots, and 1.3 steals en route to All-ACC honorable mention honors. The block and steal averages combined to lead the power conferences last season as the only player with 2+ blocks and 1+ steals. Some analysts tagged Dunn as the best perimeter defender in the draft class after seeing his play defense at Virginia.

Dunn also boasts high-end athleticism too. He recorded a 38.5″ max vertical leap and a shuttle run of 2.88 seconds at the NBA Combine. He measured in with a 7’1″ wingspan.

The New York native credited coach Tony Bennett with helping him dial that in on defense.

“I think it was Coach Bennett. … Once I got to UVA and hit my growth spurt, I think I’ve got some God-given talents, and Coach Bennett drilled that defensive mindset in me and I was able to take off at Virginia,” Dunn said.

Dunn certainly took off at Virginia. After entering UVA ranked No. 147 nationally in his class by 247 Sports, he climbed all the way into the first round of the NBA Draft in two years. That pick made Dunn the 10th Virginia player under Bennett to be selected in the NBA Draft since 2012. He joined Justin Anderson (2015), De’Andre Hunter (2019), Ty Jerome (2019), and Trey Murphy III (2021) as players picked in the first round. UVA only had seven first round draft picks in its history prior to Bennett’s arrival.

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