We all knew the Bulls were high on Kris Dunn coming out of Providence during last year’s draft. With rumors swirling a year ago at this time that Chicago was trying to work out a deal with Minnesota to acquire the fifth pick, it was widely assumed that they their intentions were to draft the senior point guard to replace the recently dealt Derrick Rose.
There was reason to love Dunn coming out of college. The reigning Big East Player of the Year averaged 16/8/5 his senior season and shot a respectable 45% from the floor and 37% from three. As the focal point of the offense, those numbers were perhaps lower than they should have been considering the bad attempts he was forced into taking during late clock situations. But after a year in the professional ranks, the shine of Dunn’s great college career has completely worn off.
Kris Dunn had his chances to seize a firm spot in the rotation as a rookie. Incumbent starter Ricky Rubio was mentioned in trade rumors throughout the season as Tom Thibodeau worked to reshape his inherited roster. Had Dunn shown some promise early on, Rubio would likely have been moved for some help on the wing.
Dunn of course did nothing to demonstrate his readiness for NBA basketball. Appearing in 78 games, Dunn averaged 3.8 points, 2.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds in his 17 minutes of action per night. He shot below 40% from the field, with shooting splits of 37.7/28.8/61. Dunn’s True Shooting percentage was an unbelievably low 43.2%.
The advanced statistical indicators were also pretty bad for Dunn. The rookie attempted just 23% of his field goals from three point range, and posted a free throw rate of .188. Dunn took his highest percentage of field goal attempts from between 16 feet and the arc, the area of the floor where efficiency goes to die. He made under 35% of those shots. If you can’t make threes and you can’t get to the foul line, your utility as a modern NBA point guard is extremely low.
Minnesota was certainly not a good team last year, and Dunn was forced to work with some pretty hopeless lineups. However, in the minutes he played alongside the Timberwolves promising young core, he did not do much to impress. Dunn’s most used five man lineup was alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Gorgi Dieng. In 159 minutes, that group had a -6.1 net rating. In the 425 minutes Dunn played alongside Towns and Wiggins, the Wolves were -2.2 points per 100 possessions.
I know I’m being extremely harsh on a rookie playing one of the most challenging positions in sports on a team that completely lacked experience up and down the roster. But the theory of drafting Dunn (and now trading for him) was that the learning curve would be short. Four years of seasoning in a major college conference were supposed to make the transition to the pro game much smoother than for a 19 year old with more potential upside.
But that line of thinking has proved to be wrong time and time again. College basketball may as well be a different sport than the NBA, and there will be a difficult transition period regardless of the success you had at the lower level. Starting that learning process at 19 or 20 gives guys a tremendous head start on those who stick around NCAA hoops for too long.
This is something the Bulls just do not understand. Yes, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler were older rookies, but neither of them were counted on for much production until later in their careers. Doug McDermott, Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine, and now, Kris Dunn, are all perfect examples that no college player is ready to contribute to winning basketball. And by the time they are mentally able to provide value on the court, the window on their physical primes are are that much closer to closing than the younger players drafted around them.
And then there’s the question of if Dunn will even develop in his sophomore season with the Bulls. Of course he’ll continue to improve as he gets more experience. But with Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant, and Rajon Rondo all on the roster, there’s legitimate worry about whether or not he’ll get the reps he needs to grow into the player the Bulls are counting on him becoming. If Hoiberg fears for his job security, will he lean on the veteran Rondo to keep the team playing somewhat respectable basketball? Will Dunn be afforded a longer leash than was given to Jerian Grant, another four year college point guard the Bulls acquired via trade?
I guess that’s what we’ll be tuning in to find out next season. It certainly won’t be to watch winning basketball.