Ryan Dunn: Agent of Chaos
Virginia Cavaliers sophomore Ryan Dunn has exploded in draft circles with his impressive defensive ability. With the 2024 draft class offering uncertainty, Dunn is becoming an Agent of Chaos.
Thanksgiving was yesterday. Today is another great day to watch some basketball. We’ve got another exciting day of NCAA hoops to look out for. Metcalf has been having too much fun with the Underdog Pick’em sessions, so I’m going to step up to the plate now. Here’s what I’m going with today. Desmond Claude has been making some noise for Xavier this year. Let’s go with higher than 12.5 points. Carlton Carrington is going to have a big performance today, I can feel it. I’m going higher than 14.0 points. Finally, yes Ja’Kobe Walter is starting to fill it up in the box scores. I’m doing a little combination points + rebounds and I think he will get higher than 5.5 combined. In the words of Creed…”Can you take me higher?”
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Everybody wants to find the next “star” when it comes to an incoming draft class.
Who has the potential to change our franchise’s trajectory?
Who can be the “go-to” option that our team desperately needs?
If fans are looking for those options this year, they could find themselves with a cold sweat running down their spines. There’s a clear hesitancy to commit this early on to the idea of a game-changing talent at the top of the class.
But I believe that this is the year for teams to find the “star-type” of connectors.
If you buy into that realization, then one sophomore is becoming an agent of chaos.
Heading into the 2023-24 NCAA season, I found myself pouring through film to get a look at the intriguing returners that could take another step forward in their development. Some like to consider these individuals as “breakout” players.
One player continued to get my curiosity. Throughout a limited sample size to start the 2023-24 season, Virginia Cavaliers sophomore Ryan Dunn has gotten my attention.
Watching Dunn as a freshman for Virginia was fascinating. Not often do you find yourself impressed with a player who averaged 2.6 PPG in 12.9 MIN. But Dunn was a Swiss Army knife for the Cavaliers. Simply put, he was a player who did everything on the court. He played a wide-range of roles for Virginia. Dunn spent most of his time on the court doing his damage around the basket, despite being listed as a “guard” at 6’8”. He was a garbage man, often making an impact with hustle plays offensively.
Dunn would finish the 2022-23 regular season averaging 4.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game over the span of his final six games. Personally, I’ve always found that the end of the year can be crucial when it comes to the development of a potential “breakout” candidate. That looked to be the story for Dunn heading into his sophomore year.
2.6 PTS | 2.9 REB | 0.3 AST | 0.4 STL | 1.1 BLK
53.2 FG% | 31.3 3P% | 50.0 FT%
2.0 FGA | 0.5 3PA | 0.7 FTA
31 Games | 0 Starts | 12.9 MIN
2023-24 (as of 11/23/23):
10.3 PTS | 7.0 REB | 1.0 AST | 2.8 STL | 2.5 BLK
54.1 FG% | 15.4 3P% | 69.0 FT%
6.2 FGA | 2.2 3PA | 4.8 FTA
6 Games | 6 Starts | 25.8 MIN
It hasn’t taken long for Ryan Dunn to send a loud message to the basketball world during the 2023-24 season. He’s been an electrifying defensive weapon. Dunn is quickly trending as one of the best defensive players in the country and should be at the top of the list of top defenders when it comes to the 2024 NBA draft class. But it’s not just the impressive stats that wows me when watching Dunn.
You’ve probably heard plenty of impressive advanced numbers when it comes to Dunn on the defensive side of the ball. When a prospect has such an incredible start to the year statistically, it’s always difficult to keep up that type of efficiency over a lengthy season.
Dunn is going to be a unique prospect to monitor throughout the year. Plenty will have questions about his role on the offensive side of the ball. But there’s a bigger story to monitor here. While Dunn is still finding his future as an offensive talent, what if this is a special defensive prospect? In scouting, we always ask ourselves “what is a player’s NBA skill set?” What if Ryan Dunn’s is that of a lethal weapon defensively? To compare Dunn’s impressive start, I wanted to look back at a couple of players with similar projections, when it came to strengths defensively but concerns about offensive role. That resulted in traveling down a little rabbit hole on Barttorvik.
The first two that came to my head were former Virginia sophomore and current Atlanta Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter and Toronto Raptors rising star Scottie Barnes. Obviously, Dunn has a ways to go when it comes to developing to have more to offer offensively, compared to where Hunter and Barnes were as prospects. But this just goes to show the freakish start Dunn has had on the defensive side of the ball.
What Dunn is doing isn’t a fluke. There are flashes all over the court that will have defensive fans looking to pick their jaw up off the floor. In a class in which so many are eager to find the next “star,” what if we are missing a bigger development?
What if Ryan Dunn could become the missing ingredient for teams looking to take the next step?
You’ve probably seen this numerous times. But it’s too juicy to not talk about. No, I don’t care if some of you out there are saying “charge” after watching this clip. Here’s the important thing we need to talk about. Dunn checks a lot of boxes on the court when it comes to his versatility on both sides of the ball.
At 6’8”, Dunn has the size to be an interesting piece on the perimeter at the next level. But there are often times on tape in which Dunn does something like this that reminds you of just how freakish of an athlete he is. Not only does Ryan have the vertical pop to finish with authority, but he glides around the court with his fluidity. Dunn can live above the rim or he can use his high-motor to impact the game around the basket. He often relishes any opportunity to create chaos, especially if it can lead to another offensive opportunity for his team.
When you look at a prospect that appears to have some serious athleticism, there’s a number of ways you can be impressed. This could be athleticism in the open floor or simply the ability to generate hang time and live above the rim. Dunn is one of those freakish athletes that somehow continues to surprise you.
Here’s a great look at just how impressive Dunn’s athleticism can be. He’s active around the basket, fighting to create hustle plays for his team. Dunn battles here before showing just how quickly he can get back up with his second and third jumps.
This is the type of stuff that will get you on the edge of your seat. Ryan is one of those players that you simply have to keep reminding yourself just how ridiculous the athleticism can get. He’s got multiple gears to really put on the turbos and get somewhere in a hurry. Then he can take off and glide through the air.
Let’s get into the fun stuff. Last year, one player caught my attention with his on-ball ability to completely swallow up air space. That player was Detroit Pistons rookie Ausar Thompson. It’s extremely early, but Ryan Dunn is starting to give me similar vibes when it comes to his ability as an on-ball defender.
There’s some “holy crap” type of fluidity when it comes to his defense. You can do everything to try and put Dunn at a disadvantage on the defensive side of the ball. But the part that stands out is his fundamentals. Dunn keeps his feet moving and hips rotating like a salsa dancer. Just when you think you have a window to attack, he quickly jumps to smother you. Impressive showing above, which ends up in a big-time rejection.
The shot-blocking ability of Ryan Dunn has been absolutely sensational. Dunn has the athleticism to contest challengers at the rim, but it’s the amount of work that goes into each rejection that is the icing on top of the cake.
If you attempt to take Dunn off the dribble, he dances with you like a shadow boxer. Almost attempting to mirror each move you throw at him. Dunn stays active with his feet and shows the recognition to wait until the perfect opportunity to attack. There are plenty of examples in which Dunn can throw “highlight” type of rejections on the court. But what gets me drooling is his footwork. Dunn trusts his fundamentals when you attack him. He does a great job of getting his hands up and sliding his feet to create chaos.
Away from the ball, Dunn always keeps his head on a swivel. He’s constantly moving and repositioning himself, waiting for the perfect chance to attack like a cobra.
Here’s a good sequence for various reasons. Dunn starts this sequence off with a miss from downtown (more on that in a second.) Most young players might get discouraged by the missed field goal attempt. But quickly we need to see the “next play up” mentality from a young prospect.
Wisconsin comes down in transition and ends up running a beautiful high ball screen action that looks to have an easy two. Dunn is completely out of this play, but he closes to the basket like a freight train. He even does a great job of recognizing that this attempt is going to be on the other side of the rim and times it perfectly.
AWARENESS PART II
Love this sequence from Ryan Dunn on the defensive side of the ball. Dunn stays active to basically defend two people here. He can’t go all out on collapsing inside or else it can present a wide open three-point attempt at the top of the key. But he’s also got to have the recognition to help out and prevent an easy two here. Once the dump-off pass occurs, Dunn reacts for a beautiful rejection from behind.
This is the type of plays that really stand out when you’re evaluating a talented defensive prospect like Ryan Dunn. Wisconsin gets a good driving lane here at the end of the half. Dunn understands that he can’t go too early to help out, or it could lead to a wide-open kick-out for a corner three.
He stays grounded, waiting for a commit from the offensive player before attacking. Once the ball handler goes up for the attempt, Dunn slides over to get a perfectly timed rejection at the rim. It’s patience like this that goes a long way toward showcasing the mentality and anticipation that Dunn has on the defensive side of the floor.
The biggest area to watch moving forward with the Virginia sophomore is the outside shooting. Personally, I find myself buying the development of the form moving forward. As of Thursday, November 23rd, Dunn has only attempted 13 attempts from beyond the arc. He’s made just two of those.
There’s consistency with the shooting form, something that is important when trying to project the future. The biggest thing you want to see from Dunn moving forward is confidence from outside. If Dunn can produce a game in which he can put together a couple of shots from beyond the arc, it could present a burst of confidence moving forward.
Earlier, I compared Dunn to a pair of players who had similar questions when it came to their trajectory at the next level. Scottie Barnes was a versatile weapon on both sides of the floor, but questions about his outside shot were warranted when he averaged just 1.7 3PA during his only year at Florida State. Former Virginia prospect De’Andre Hunter averaged just 2.8 3PA as a sophomore, but he finished the year shooting 43.8% from deep.
As of now, Dunn is averaging 2.2 3PA per game. Time will tell if he can start to find a groove from deep, allowing his percentage to climb. If it can start to trend in the right direction, it will start to ring some noise about Dunn being a potential lottery pick candidate for the 2024 class.
There have been minimal flashes when it comes to the playmaking from Ryan Dunn this year. He’s averaging just 1.2 assists per game to go with 0.4 turnovers. With his role currently with Virginia, it’s simply just not part of his game. Virginia puts Dunn all over the place on the offensive side of the ball.
You’ll see instances in which he’s the roll man in P&R actions. He’s just been asked to do a little bit of everything, going back to his limited minutes as a freshman. But there are some “teases” of Dunn having some feel on the offensive side of the floor. Personally, this is another area I want to focus on throughout the year. If Dunn can continue to showcase some instances of feel, that might be another aspect of his game that is waiting to be unlocked.
The 2024 NBA draft class is going to present plenty of interesting “curveballs.” With no consensus top overall prospect, plenty are going to be wanting to debate about which players could offer potential “star power” in the 2024 class. While it’s always fascinating to look at the players who could be the next shiny toy for an NBA organization, what if we need to focus on the potential weapons that can take a team to the next level?
What if Ryan Dunn can become an agent of chaos for an NBA organization?