Terrence Shannon Jr. Is An NBA-Ready Steal

Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Before the draft, Chris Finch told KSTP’s Darren Wolfson that the Minnesota Timberwolves were targeting prospects capable of providing an immediate spark.

“This draft offers up a lot of guys who are ready to play because of the COVID year, which created a lot of older guys – 23, 24-year-olds,” Finch said. “Physically, they are ready to play. Where we are, we could use a couple of plug-and-play rookies.”

The Wolves are fresh off a run to the Western Conference Finals and have made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. Contending teams typically don’t have minutes for their young players. There are exceptions, like Christian Braun, who played a vital role in the Denver Nuggets championship in 2023 right after they drafted him.

Minnesota hasn’t played any of its rookies in meaningful situations over the last few years. However, that will likely change next season with the cap situation and the Wolves already being over the second apron of the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which issues a few unfortunate but manageable punishments.

“I’ll play rookies. I played a lot of rookies when I first got here, and they became really good players,” Finch told Wolfson. “Now we are in a situation where we have a lot of really good players and a nine-man rotation. It’s hard where we are for rookies to play, but as we forecast forward, we are going to need young, talented players to start playing in the rotation more.”

Tim Connelly and his staff made a splash by trading a 2031 unprotected first-round pick and a 2030 pick swap (top-1 protected) to the San Antonio Spurs for Rob Dillingham, one of the highest-regarded point guards in the draft. Connelly told the media that Dillingham will play immediately even though he’s 19 and only started one game for Kentucky last year.

The Wolves also took combo guard Terrence Shannon Jr. out of Illinois with the 27th pick. Unlike Dillingham, who the Timberwolves partially brought in to solve their need for a backup point guard, Shannon will likely start deep on Minnesota’s depth chart, which could hamper playing time in his rookie year. However, he has what it takes on both sides of the ball to impact winning now.

Shannon spent five years playing college basketball. He played his first three years at Texas Tech; the last two were with Illinois. The 6’5” combo guard quickly rose to the top-prospect board. He averaged 9.8 points on 47% from the floor as a freshman. During his final year in college, Shannon averaged 23 points on 47.5% from the floor and 36.2% from deep after seeing a steady increase in his per-game averages every season.

Table via SportsReference.com

Shannon, 23, enters the NBA as one of the oldest prospects. He has filled out his body and is more polished than most rookies this year. Texas Tech didn’t recruit him for offense. However, the Chicago native has seen the most growth in that aspect of his game, which could help make him that plug-and-play rookie Finch longed for.

“Whatever they need from me,” Shannon told the Illini Inquirer shortly after being drafted when asked what he will bring to the win-now Wolves. “I’m going to be a great teammate. Whatever the coaches, best players, and staff want me to do, I’m going to go out and do it. I’m just coming in to compete every day.”

Despite being the second-leading scorer in the Big 10 last year, Shannon spent most of his 33.9 minutes per game spacing off the ball.

Terrence receives a simple pitch-and-catch in the right corner in the clip above. His jump shot isn’t particularly fast. However, because he is a lefty, catching a shooting from the right corner allows him to transfer, load, and fire quicker than a righty.

Shooting from range has been TSJ’s most significant area of growth, and it will be vital to his success in the NBA. As the chart above shows, he shot 25.7% on 1.2 three-pointers in his rookie year and 36.2% on 6.7 threes attempted last year. In the NBA, he must continue that upward trend from deep, particularly off the ball. Shannon attempted his fair share of three-point pull-ups off screens as one of the most prolific scorers in the Big 10. Still, he will get far more spot-up attempts from the corners in Minnesota, especially if he is playing alongside Anthony Edwards or Karl-Anthony Towns, who command a ton of defensive attention.

The Wolves entered this off-season in search of wings capable of spacing the floor, but that need will not disappear after one season. A team centered around a player like Edwards, who is so ball-dominant, needs ample off-ball players. Terrence can be exactly that as he continues to develop a great role in the Twin Cities.

Shannon’s shooting may not transfer to the NBA in his first game played, but his rim-attacking most likely will. He is 6’5”, 219 lbs., making him a physical force at his position. Shannon’s primary way of scoring in college was attacking into the paint in isolations or pick-and-rolls and using his size and 6’9” wingspan to muscle his way through defenders, draw contact, or make a tough layup around the rim.

According to Jonathan Wasserman, Terrence scored on 65 percent of his chances below the rim.

The next step for Shannon will be learning when and what to do when driving. He was bigger than most players who defended him in college, making it easy to draw contact and push through the defense. However, players in the NBA are massive, especially the bigs who roam around the rim. Shannon must have a plan when he drives. Simply being bigger than the defense will no longer be good enough. He must stay aware of the defense when it collapses and who is in the paint attempting to stop him. Making the correct kick-out or shot and not aimlessly jumping in the air hoping for a foul will be crucial in his development.

The pace Shannon brings while on the floor is undoubtedly another positive. His impressively physical and smart perimeter defense gives him many open-court opportunities. Terrence will almost exclusively look to push the pace and use his strong frame as a battering ram to explode downhill for a loud two points. It’s never bad to have a few players on your roster capable of thriving in transition. Not only are the points demoralizing for the opposition, but they also stoke the fire of the home crowd or suck the life out of the opposing fans.

Shannon averaged only 2.3 assists in his last year of college. However, because of his build and impressive downhill abilities, he must pass out of PnRs effectively. His off-ball skills can make Terrence a plug-and-play option for Finch at some point. Still, it would be nice to see him continue to tap into the on-ball skills he developed in college. Of course, scoring is necessary to receive playing time, but growth with his passing is arguably more important.

Teams undoubtedly recruited Shannon out of high school for his defense. He is a ballhawk who is a relentless on-ball defender. Shannon’s ability to move his feet rapidly and willingness to fight over screens impressed me most. He rarely lost a step on his defensive assignment. After watching much of his film with Illinois, Shannon’s defense reminds me of Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Both stand at 6-foot-5 and are relentless on the ball and at the point of attack.

His defense alone could make Terrence a Day 1 player, even more so if he continues developing his offense. However, the Wolves are deep at the two-guard, so it’s unlikely they will give him meaning and consistent playing time immediately. Still, that doesn’t detract from what Connelly and Co. got late in the first round. They sneakily took a player who could have gone in the lottery because of his oozing two-way potential.

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