Virginia’s Ryan Dunn taken No. 28 in NBA Draft by Phoenix

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: Bright Side of the Sun

Virginia’s Ryan Dunn became the 10th Cavalier chosen in the NBA Draft since 2012 on Wednesday night when he was selected in the first round (28th overall) by the Phoenix Suns.

Phoenix traded down (from the No. 23 slot with Denver) in order to draft the 6-foot-6 defensive specialist. Dunn, who played only two seasons at UVA, was the only Cavalier in the last quarter century with 50 blocks and 40 steals in a single season.

“Dunn is the best overall defender in the draft,” said ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas.

NBA observers have compared Dunn to former Phoenix wing Mikal Bridges (recently traded to the Knicks) and Portland wing Matisse Thybulle, in terms of his defensive ability. Last season for Virginia, Dunn averaged 8.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocked shots and 1.3 steals, making the ACC’s All-Defensive team.

He is an elite rim protector and a special defender who can disrupt opposing offenses, particularly with stunning closing speed. Dunn credited Virginia coach Tony Bennett for helping him excel as a defensive player, who was a lockdown performer and could guard multiple positions.

“I’m excited, great program,” said Dunn about going to the Suns. “They want to win a championship and they have great players to do it, so I’m going to try to get down there and go to work.”

Offensively, Dunn has work to do on the NBA level, but excelled at catching lobs, cutting to the basket and screening, all valuable assets considering the fact he will be surrounded by several shooters on the Suns roster. The major criticism is that he was a limited shooter at Virginia and was missing a mid-range game.

Dunn joins the following UVA players drafted in the Bennett era: Mike Scott (2012), Joe Harris (2014), Justin Anderson (2015), Malcolm Brogdon (2016), Devon Hall (2018), De’Andre Hunter (2019), Ty Jerome (2019), Kyle Guy (2019) and Trey Murphy (2021). Hunter, Anderson, Jerome and Murphy were all first-round choices.

Other Wahoos pre-Bennett, drafted in the first round were: Barry Parkhill (1973), Wally Walker (1976), Jeff Lamp (1981), Ralph Sampson (1983), Olden Polynice (1987), Bryant Stith (1992) and Cory Alexander (1995).