The Prospect Overview: The Terrence Shannon Jr. Conundrum
Terrence Shannon Jr.'s slower development and inconsistency has left some evaluators frustrated. Still, the 6'6" wing has improved as a playmaker and shooter, and Maxwell isn't giving up just yet!
Feature: Terrence Shannon Jr., Grandpa Joe, and Fresh Perspectives
My favorite movie in the entire world is the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Gene Wilder’s performance as the title character was exceptional. While I generally don’t care for musicals, the songs are funny, whimsical, and often about chocolate, which is something I enjoy. The blend of comedy and life lessons is beautiful. I rarely rewatch movies, but I still throw on Wonka at least twice a year, and I’ve probably seen it in full around 50 times.
But it wasn’t until my more recent years that I was given a fresh perspective on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. A friend sent me a link to an old, janky website, SayNoToGrandpaJoe.com. The site poses an interesting theory: that the real villain of the movie is Charlie Bucket’s grandfather, Grandpa Joe. If you haven’t seen the movie, first off, grow up. Secondly, here’s a recap: Willy Wonka owns and operates a chocolate factory, but no one is ever allowed in. He gives out golden tickets, hidden inside chocolate bars. The people who find one will get a tour of the factory. Charlie Bucket, a poor boy who lives with his mother and four bedridden grandparents, finds one of the tickets. He takes his Grandpa Joe to the factory with him, and Charlie is ultimately given the factory by Willy Wonka, who wants to retire.
Growing up, to me, the villain had always been Slugworth, a rival candy maker who aimed to leak Wonka’s secrets, only to reveal himself as a White Hat Good Guy who was working for Wonka in the end. However, I soon began to realize that indeed, Grandpa Joe totally sucks.
Early in the film, we learn that Grandpa Joe continues to use tobacco, draining the limited resources of Charlie’s working mother, who supports Charlie as well as his four struggling grandparents. Grandpa Joe presents himself as bedridden, but as soon as he is given the opportunity to explore the chocolate factory, he miraculously springs to his feet and is able to perform an entire song and dance routine. While Grandpa Joe is quick to slander the other children on the tour when they engage in misbehavior, it is also Grandpa Joe who encourages Charlie to steal Fizzy Lifting Drink. When confronted over his theft, Grandpa Joe is unapologetic, berating Willy Wonka. Charlie, a child, does the right thing. He apologizes and returns the Everlasting Gobstopper given to him by Willy Wonka, despite the wishes of Grandpa Joe. In doing so, Charlie is gifted the chocolate factory, something that never would have happened if that no-good, selfish thief Grandpa Joe had gotten his way. Charlie triumphed over the other children, being the one chosen by Wonka to take over the factory. He triumphed over the temptation of selling Wonka’s secrets to Slugworth. But his final and greatest test was to shrug off his foul, stealing, unapologetic grandfather.
Indeed, Grandpa Joe was the villain.
Sometimes, you need someone to play Devil’s Advocate so you can see what is really transpiring in front of you. Today, I’m here to play Devil’s Advocate for Terrence Shannon Jr., who was ranked 57th on our most recent composite Big Board.
There are many criticisms of Terrence Shannon Jr., and a lot of them are fair. I’ve been told that he’s barely improved over the years. When Coach Brad Underwood lamented Illinois’s lack of leadership, it reflected poorly on Shannon, the team’s leading scorer. His lack of ability with his off-hand has become a bigger red flag over the years as he becomes an older prospect who is expected to be more polished. Still, I think there are real NBA outcomes for Terrence Shannon Jr. Today, it is my goal to push back on some of the critiques he faces, as well as to give a fresh perspective on what he still brings to the table, even if he may not have developed into what some of us hoped he would three years ago.
Terrence Shannon Jr. is going to come into the NBA with a pro body. At just under 6’6” in shoes, Shannon is a sturdy 225 pounds with a wingspan topping 6’8”. He’ll come in with the size, strength, and athleticism needed to play on the wing. His first step is potent, he can absolutely soar, and he doesn’t let contact bother him anywhere on the court. This allows Shannon to meaningfully pressure the rim. Per Synergy, 55.1% of Shannon’s looks in the halfcourt come at the rim. He’s effective there, converting 59.8% of his shots while also drawing a boatload of fouls.
Shannon can use his speed and power to jam home a dunk, but if he needs to use his touch, he’s a good layup finisher, too—he makes 57.1% of those. On the foul tip, Shannon has a .549 free throw rate, a fantastic number, and gets to the line 12.1 times per 100 possessions. At 76.6% from the charity stripe, it’s a good place for Shannon to get. He’s a sneaky threat on the offensive glass, grabbing 1.5 OREBS per game and ranking in Synergy’s 89th percentile on putbacks. In total, his physical profile will prevent him from giving up anything easy on defense while allowing him to be an impactful attacker on offense.
Shannon has consistently been a tough defender throughout his college career. His career steal percentage of 2.3 and block percentage of 1.3 give a solid baseline indication that he can be a playmaker on that end of the floor. The tape further solidifies that argument. His quickness allows him to jump passing lanes to create transition opportunities, and his leaping ability leads to occasional stuffs at the rim. He’s generally tuned in, and he nabs steals when ball handlers turn their backs to him. At times, he can gamble a little too much, but he’s not overly reckless in a way that sours me. It’s a common trait among prospects, especially athletic ones who are used to exerting their will against unprepared opposition.
Shannon’s good on the ball—an important facet of the game, given how often NBA teams look to hunt mismatches, especially in the playoffs. With his frame, agility, and power, rarely will Shannon be helplessly overmatched. He slides his feet well and can use his chest, keeping quicker guards in front of him. His awareness and tools help him in ball screen coverage, too, where he only gives up 0.705 points per possession, per Synergy. While I don’t see All-Defense upside in Shannon, the fact that he’ll come in with the ability to make plays and contain opponents of various speeds and sizes is a great skill to have at his disposal.
One of the biggest knocks on Terrence Shannon Jr. has always been his lack of willingness to use his right hand. While this is a fair criticism, in some ways, it’s become a bit overstated. Per InStat’s tracking data, Shannon has used his right hand at the basket 28 times this season, which is far from an abhorrent number. That said, he isn’t good with his right, converting only 10 of those opportunities. Still, the fact that he’s engaging with the problem is encouraging. Shannon also does a good job of blending his driving directions. Per Synergy, Shannon has driven right 17 times and driven left 14 times this season.
While the numbers make him seem pretty ambidextrous, the film isn’t as positive. It’s evident that Shannon would prefer to go left with the ball. When he does go right, everything is a tad bit clunkier. His handle is a little looser, his footwork a little less steady. There is an omnipotent sense that everything he is doing is in an effort to get back to his left. The fact that he wants to finish with his left leads to some odd body mechanics and gathers, leading to slower movement and tougher looks in the paint. While it may not factor heavily into his regular season performances, especially out of the gate, teams will be all over this issue come playoff time. Still, Shannon has come along here, and continued improvement could open up more for him as an attacker.
Shannon has also seen development as a passer. During his first two seasons at Texas Tech, Shannon showed little beyond the basics as a playmaker for others. He could skip it along the perimeter, but that was about it. During his junior season, he started to take strides and even began to bring the ball up the floor more often. This year, he’s been tasked with more on-ball responsibility than at any point in his college career. The results have been encouraging. Shannon has a career-high 19.5 assist percentage while racking up 3.2 APG to a 13.0 turnover percentage and 2.3 TOV. He’s simply seeing the floor better and making more advanced reads on a consistent basis, especially on the go. His interior passing has come along, a wonderful area of improvement given his gravity as a driver.
Given how much of a driving threat he is, defenses collapse early when he starts to get downhill. As a result, he’s able to get some easy assists without even having to go deep into the paint. Shannon can also recognize perimeter help and quickly kick the ball to the open man. He’s never going to be a primary option for NBA teams, even as a bench option, but the fact that he can do more than just charging at the rim when chased off the line gives him more juice than a lot of other wing options.
As is the case for many prospects, Terrence Shannon Jr.’s NBA prospects hinge heavily on what he can do as an outside shooter. Internally at No Ceilings, this is where many have lost confidence in Shannon. His percentages and volume have never quite hit a point where one could comfortably say, “yes, he’s going to shoot it at the NBA level.” While I won’t sit here and tell you that he will, I have a little more confidence than others. Let’s dig into the three-point shooting numbers.
Freshman year: 25.7%, 1.2/game, 3.0 per 100 possessions
Sophomore year: 35.7%, 3.0/game, 6.7 per 100 possessions
Junior year: 38.4%, 3.3/game, 7.9 per 100 possessions
Senior year: 34.0%, 5.4/game, 9.7 per 100 possessions
While Shannon has indeed seen his percentage dip this season, he has increased his volume in a substantial way. Additionally, he’s now his team’s highest usage player after being Texas Tech’s third-highest usage player among those who played more than 10 games last season. Based on those two factors alone, a dip in efficiency can be expected. He’s taking more threes, and as a top option, he’s taking tougher ones. Last season, Shannon took 29 threes off the dribble in 26 games. This year, through 19 games, he’s already taken 37. Shannon has gone from hitting 20.7% of those looks to 40.5% of them this year.
Where he’s dropped off is as a shooter off the catch. To put it bluntly, 28.8% off the catch isn’t going to cut it at the next level, and that’s where Shannon sits currently, per Synergy. To provide some room for optimism, though, Shannon likely draws tougher assignments night to night than he did before. He’s also getting fewer clean looks. Last year, Shannon was 48.1% on threes off the catch on 52 attempts—31 of those were classified as “guarded,” while 21 were unguarded. This year, that ratio is uglier—44 of Shannon’s catch-and-shoot threes have been guarded, while only 22 were unguarded. Defenses aren’t giving him as much breathing room. As a more tertiary option at the next level, Shannon likely won’t face coverage as aggressive as what he is seeing right now. Granted, when defenders do come at him, they will be bigger, longer, and faster.
Terrence Shannon Jr. has a chance. I’m not quite willing to die on his hill, though. He’s been inconsistent over long stretches throughout his career. When he went off for 29 points against UCLA earlier this year, he looked unstoppable. But when Penn State clamped him up and held him to 4 points on 2-7 shooting, he looked far less remarkable. After going 36.1% from three through his first ten games, he’s gone 31% since. In conference games during the past two seasons, where he’s faced tougher opposition, Shannon is 29.7% from long range. That’s troubling! Without a reliable outside shot, his attacking game will be limited. NBA teams will sag on him, and it’s already going to be tougher to get to the cup at the next level without that happening.
Still, I can’t quite quit on Terrence Shannon Jr. He’s a wonderful athlete with an NBA body and NBA tools. While the results haven’t been steady or overwhelming positive, his increased volume and variety from long range gives at least some room for hope. Given his defensive acumen, he won’t be a hunting target. His growth as a playmaker gives him an added dimension as an attacker. Depending on how the rest of the season shakes out for him, Shannon could be well worth it as a second round pick, undrafted pick-up, or two-way signee. If the shot sticks, he has the makings of a rock-solid role player—someone who can shoot, defend, and has something to offer while driving to the basket.
The Expanding Big Board
Welcome to The Expanding Big Board! Every week, a new player is added to the board. Once a player is added, they cannot be removed. The current ranking is listed first, with last week’s ranking in parenthesis.
1. Victor Wembanyama (1)
2. Scoot Henderson (2)
3. Ausar Thompson (4)
4. Brandon Miller (6)
5. Cam Whitmore (3)
6. Amen Thompson (5)
Alright, to be honest, I’m frankly annoyed with this range of the draft. I’m constantly flipping the 3-6 range around. I don’t think I’ll be firm on it until the season is over, I have a full data sample, and I plow through all of their film in more depth. Ausar Thompson’s outside shooting has begun to level out, but I still buy his mechanical tweaks long-term. He’s a stellar athlete who can make an impact on both ends, and he embraces physicality. His touch at the basket still concerns me, but the angles he takes and his growing frame give me some hope. I’m not wild about Brandon Miller’s ceiling compared to the rest of the group, but his floor is becoming increasingly enticing. He’s nuclear from three, he knows how to defend, and he’s a growing playmaker with a 6’9” frame. All of that is good and useful, even if I still worry about his finishing. Even then, it’s getting better! Cam Whitmore feels wildly up and down. While the three-ball has come around for him in 2023, his playmaking has not. Defensively, he’s not the force I expected him to be. In his disappointing five-point outing against St. John’s, some of his team’s best runs came with him on the bench. It didn’t seem like he knew he was covering when St. John’s initiated early offense, and on the other end, he didn’t space the floor properly off the ball at times. Still, Whitmore has been looking quicker. If he can show defensive consistency and do more as a passer, he could easily grab the third spot on my board. Amen Thompson’s halfcourt struggles, lack of willingness to embrace contact, and bad three-point shooting leave me wanting more from him. He’s still a fantastic athlete brimming with upside and creativity, so he can only fall so far.
7. Nick Smith Jr. (7)
8. Jett Howard (8)
9. Keyonte George (unranked)
Keyonte George is the guy I’ve probably taken the most flack about throughout the draft cycle. It comes down to this: I think Keyonte George is going to be good; I’m not sure he’s going to be great. But I’m starting to buy in a lot more as of late, and he could rise significantly in the coming weeks. I underrated George from a slither and wiggle standpoint as a ball handler. He weaves through traffic well, even if he’s only a decent finisher. While he can be frustrating as a passer and produce some bad turnovers, George is creative. He plays pick-and-rolls in a variety of ways, keeping both his defender and the big man defender in a state of uncomfortable flux. Most importantly, George has cut back on his turnovers quite substantially. He was averaging 3.4 per game during the 2022 portion of the schedule but has since cut back to 2.2 per game. George has always displayed tantalizing passing flashes, too. Given how he manipulates defenses and has continued to make better decisions, this is the area where his game could explode.
Defensively, I’m not wild about George, but he’s far from a lost cause. He can be a little slow chasing players around screens and doesn’t have the quickest reaction times. He can play too far off the weakside and pay the price. Still, he covers ground well for his size, and his strength helps wall off opponents.
The biggest selling point with George is his shooting. He takes a preposterous 15.1 threes per 100 possessions, so defenses have to be prepared for him to shoot. This commands attention and gives him ridiculous gravity. He can shoot off the dribble and off movement. His willingness to move off the ball and relocate is a constant thorn in the side of opposing defenses. While his percentage on the year is only 35.6%, he can go off at a moment’s notice, he’s a high-volume launcher, and he’s gotten better as he’s adjusted to the college game. George has hit 40% of his threes since the turn of the calendar. His on-ball, off-ball versatility will allow him to scale up or down in his role at the next level.
10. Jarace Walker (10)
11. GG Jackson (9)
Nothing too wild with this flip-flop of Jarace Walker and GG Jackson. This is one of those rankings where it’s tricky, because I’m operating in a vacuum vs. creating a board for an organizational construct. Walker is the safer option to me, a guy who has size, knows how to play, and will stick around forever. Jackson has more upside due to his offensive dynamism, but he has a slew of bad habits that Walker doesn’t. Jackson is 15 months younger, but his recognition as a passer still trails Walker considerably. I’m back and forth on this based on the day of the week. While Jackson will need more developmental focus, Walker should be able to thrive just about anywhere.
12. Anthony Black (11)
13. Brice Sensabaugh (12)
-Both my fellow No Ceilings contributor Stephen Gillaspie and I have been talking about Jaylen Forbes quite a bit recently. Tulane’s fourth-year player is 6’5”, and his arms look long. He uses that length to get into passing lanes and poke the ball away from unsuspecting dribblers on a consistent basis, tallying two steals per game. Forbes is a knockdown shooter, too, taking 11.1 threes per 100 possessions and converting them at a 37.7% clip. Over the last three seasons, Forbes has taken a heavy dose of threes, and he’s 37.8% over that entire sample, so this isn’t anything new. He’s always been a solid lateral athlete with good hands who can shoot it, but now, he’s doing more. Forbes has taken steps forward inside the arc, and while he doesn’t offer much as a playmaker, he’s moving the ball better and has cut down on his turnovers. Forbes is consistent, too, having just been held under 10 points for the first time all season against Tulsa. He doesn’t present a ton of vertical pop, blocking few shots and only tallying two dunks on the year. Still, Forbes could potentially find his way as a low-maintenance sniper with some defensive value.
-After a slow start from beyond the arc, Houston’s Marcus Sasser has hit 42% of his threes on 8.1 3PA/game over his last ten games. Sure, small point guards aren’t “in” at the moment, but the ones who stick look a lot like Sasser—strong, tough defenders who can drain threes.
-Baylor’s Adam Flagler may be a fifth-year guy, but he’s doing everything you could want him to do in order to get his name on draft boards. The 6’3” guard, who started his career at Presbyterian, has increased his assists per game from 3.0 last year to 5.3 this year while lowering his turnovers from 1.7 per game to 1.6 per game. He’s truly grown here, demonstrating a greater command of the ball, making more advanced reads, and showcasing creativity in his deliveries. Oh, and he’s still a 45.4% three-point shooter, too. I get being leery of older prospects, but I’m willing to bet on the ones who keep getting better.
-I circled back on Providence’s Bryce Hopkins this past week. I’m not totally in on him as a 2023 guy, but the indicators are positive. At 6’7”, 220 pounds is strong. Still, he’s not sluggish with his first step, he has some craft at the rim, and has footwork to get himself a little separation. He’s a gifted scorer, tallying 16.6 PPG with a 57.5 True Shooting Percentage. Though his passing numbers don’t fly off the page (2.3 APG vs. 2.7 TOV), his vision is solid, and he plays with his head up. If the defense throws a double at him, he stays poised rather than panicking. I’d like to see more from him defensively. His steal and block rates are low for a forward, and he can be too content to ball-watch. I’d be a bit more forgiving if he didn’t post similar numbers in a smaller role at Kentucky last season. I’m not sure he gets off the floor well enough to play the four, and he may be a tad slow at the three spot for the NBA. Hopkins is also a tentative outside shooter. He’s 35.3% for his college career, but he’s still taking less than two a game this season. It’s simply too hard to identify a clear-cut NBA role for him for me to jump in at this stage. Still, there is scoring prowess, strength, and feel here.
-St. John’s big man Joel Soriano might not be the most exciting prospect, but he’s got a shot. It all starts with his rebounding. Soriano posts 12.3 RPG. He’s active on the offensive glass, nabbing 4.2 of his team’s own misses each game. He’s a reliable finisher, shooting 61.1% on the year, and he’s good at the foul line, where he makes 71.2% of his attempts. That touch extends to live action, too. Soriano can easily knock down jumpers on the baseline or from the nail, giving his team a little bit more spacing than your run-of-the-mill play finisher. Defensively, he isn’t absolute toast when he has to guard in space. If he can do more as a rim protector, there could be an NBA cup of coffee in his future. A few cups, even, if he can do more as a floor spacer.
-Azuolas Tubelis is a really good basketball player, folks. I get it, he’s sort of weird positionally. He doesn’t fly off the floor or protect the rim like a 5, and he’s not the seamless mover you would hope a modern 4 to be. Still, he’s unbelievably effective. I think his lateral mobility is a tad underrated. He knows himself well, and he has enough length that he can cat-and-mouse perimeter players without giving up easy looks or getting beat off the dribble. Sure, he can lose his balance a tad on closeouts, but he’s not an unmitigated disaster in those settings. Offensively, he’s not a true floor spacer, though he hits his often lone three attempt per game at a 45% clip on the year. Tubelis dominates by finding inside position on smaller players and maintaining his seal. As a left-handed player, he’s also a gifted passer, and Domantas Sabonis has shown how useful that combination can be in Sacramento’s movement-heavy offense. Tubelis doesn’t have Sabonis’s raw power or creativity, but he’s still a trustworthy orchestrator. The “jack of all trades, master of none” big man doesn’t come along too often, and it’s a tricky archetype to pin down. Still, it’s feeling more and more like Tubelis’s size and savvy are going to allow him to carve out some sort of NBA role.