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Is It Time to Worry About Dunleavy?

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Since returning from a stomach virus, Mike Dunleavy's play has taken a nosedive. Is it his back?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In his first two seasons in Chicago, Mike Dunleavy quickly provided the Bulls with stability on both ends. Offensively, he spaced the floor, and his movement did its best at preventing things from becoming stagnant. On the opposite end, his stout, team defense did its part as well. Whenever on the floor, there had always been a sense of calm with Dunleavy. At least that was the case until recent weeks.

His return to the lineup just prior to the All-Star break was a sigh of relief for the Bulls and fans alike as they struggled mightily on the wing. In the first 15 games of his return, Dunleavy once more came with that stability on both ends. Dunleavy was shooting 47.1% from the field, while blazing it from downtown at a 47.1% clip on 3.4 attempts per game. His defense, while never overwhelmingly exceptional, was still solid in its own right.

However, a stomach virus kept Dunleavy out of a March 14th game in Toronto, and since then, he hasn't been the same. Dunleavy's back surgery before this season has been well-documented. And it would be odd for a stomach virus to have such drastic after effects, so one has to wonder how much of his recent struggles could be due to his surgically repaired back. Though very little, if anything at all about Dunleavy's back has been reported by the Bulls beat writers, based on his recent shooting slump, and his general movement on the floor, it at least raises an eyebrow.

Since his return from missing that March 14th game, Dunleavy's shooting percentages have dropped significantly. He's now shooting 41.7% from the floor, while his three-point shooting has dropped to 39.7%. Although his three point percentage is still right around the league average, it's almost an eight percent decline. In the 10 games since his return, Dunleavy is 16-56 from the field, shooting 28.6%.

And one can tell he isn't moving as fluidly as before. Offensively, he's not moving around off the ball with as much zip, which has limited him and his teammates from generating open looks. Defensively, he's been having a rather difficult time in sticking with his defender on and off the ball, and his reaction time in rotating on the help-side has been slowed.

In Thursday night's win in Houston, Dunleavy only totaled nine minutes and ten seconds of playing time. During that limited action, Dunleavy only took one shot, which he missed. Moreover, his minutes over the last five games have gone down noticeably. From March 24th until last night, Dunleavy's minutes total are as follows; 29, 22, 20, 17 and 9.

Which, again, begs the question about his surgically repaired back. It's an unfortunate question to raise, seeing as though Dunleavy had been so vital to the Bulls over the last couple of years. Obviously, this could very well be just a slump Mike is going through, but with the way his shot has been, in addition to his movement on the court and decrease in minutes, Dunleavy may be hurting more than anything. If that's the case, it could be the beginning of the end for the MDJ era.