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Friday, January 27, 2023

Kris Dunn Finally Playing Up To His Potential

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Three nights ago, Chicago Bulls point guard Kris Dunn posted a career-high 32 points to go along with nine assists and four steals. This career showing has been the high point (so far) of a breakout year for the second-year man.

Despite being selected fifth overall by the Timberwolves in the 2016 NBA draft, Dunn had only shown flashes of the ability that made him a lottery pick. During his first year in the NBA, he averaged 3.8 PPG and shot 37% from the field while playing 17.1 minutes per game. Toss on a measly 2.4 assists and you have all the makings of a potential lottery “bust.”

After his rookie year, the Timberwolves seemed to deem him expendable and flipped him along with Zach LaVine and their seventh pick to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler and the Bulls’ 16th pick. The centerpiece of the trade for the Bulls was LaVine – a freak athlete and dynamic playmaker. The seventh pick turned into promising big man Lauri Markkanen. Dunn was simply along for the ride.

With LaVine coming off of an ACL injury, the Bulls desperately needed a playmaker. Dunn stepped into the role and has flourished. In his second year, he is averaging 13.9 PPG while shooting 44% from the field and increasing his three-point percentage from 28% to 34%. He has also contributed 6.1 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2 steals per game to go along with an increase in minutes from 17.9 to 29 MPG. With the increase in playing time comes the usual decrease in efficiency. However, his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) has increased from 8.1 during his rookie year to 15.3. His usage rate has also skyrocketed from from 14.2% to 25.8% which is an indicator of Fred Hoiberg’s confidence in his young guard.

With Dunn’s improved performance on the court, the Bulls are finally seeing the player they envisioned when they traded Butler: a creative guard who can play both ways at a high level. While Dunn’s offensive efficiency could use some work, he is an elite defender capable of covering both guard positions. His quickness and length have led to 1.9 steals per game, good for third in the league. He also averages 2.9 deflections per game which is a testament to both his willingness and positioning on the defensive end. These numbers put him in the company of other elite defenders such as Paul George, Chris Paul and Jimmy Butler.

If Dunn can keep up this level of play, he will likely be in the conversation for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. While he has only been in the league for two years, he has so far failed to show why the Timberwolves took him fifth overall. Now, he is the Bulls starting point guard, their most dynamic playmaker and one of their leaders on the court.

All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com

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