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Kris Dunn has improved with more minutes, but is still too inefficient

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Analytics vs. eye test battle about to go down

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

During the Chicago Bulls current 10-5 run in the “Niko’s Back” era, point guard Kris Dunn has been the definition of a stat-sheet stuffer while commanding a starting role.

Since the Dec. 8 game against the Charlotte Hornets that started the Bulls inexplicable seven-game winning streak, Dunn has averaged 14.9 points on 42.4 percent from the field, collected 4.8 rebounds, and dished out 8.1 assists. In many ways he’s played like the lead guard the Bulls were hoping for as part of the trade package for Jimmy Butler.

His playmaking potential has especially blossomed, on the season Dunn has averaged ten assists per 48 minutes which checks in at No. 16 in the NBA. And he’s even cut down on the turnovers recently: a 2.69 assist/turnover ratio since Dec. 8 compared to a 1.41 ratio the rest of the season.

But even through his recent surge since the Bulls began the win streak on Dec. 8, Dunn has still, surprisingly, hurt the Bulls offense because of his inefficient scoring.

Has Dunn’s Shooting Been Better?

This is a tricky question.

Ultimately the answer is yes: Dunn’s shooting has gotten a lot better if you compare his true shooting percentage this season compared to a season ago: from an impressively-awful 43.2 percent in his rookie season (third-worst among guards that averaged at least 15 minutes per game last season), to a less awful 48.2 percent this season.

Under the tutelage of shot doctor Fred Hoiberg, Dunn has improved his 3-point field goal percentage by nearly four percent and his two-point field goal percentage by nearly six percent compared to a season ago.

But it is not trending up during the season. Through games up to Dec. 8, Dunn’s true shooting percentage was 49.3 percent. But during the Bulls current 10-5 run, his true shooting percentage has actually fallen to 47.0 percent, and has been at 14.3 percent from 3-point land since Dec. 8. He is shooting the ball better from the free-throw line (78.4 percent since Dec. 8), but has only averaged about two free-throw attempts per game so that isn’t weighing as heavily into his overall true shooting percentage.

As The Athletic writer Darnell Mayberry pointed out in a recent article, a place where Dunn continues to make strides his favorite spot: from mid-range. Since Dec. 8, Dunn has shot the ball at a 46.4 percent clip from mid-range territory which exceeds his season average of 43.4 percent.

This is good news, but these shots are what most NBA coaches (including Hoiball) try to eliminate. Furthermore when Dunn goes to the rim, his 42.8 percent field goal percentage on 13.4 drives per game (67th out of 96 guards who average at least five drives per game) is problematic, and his 55.5 percent clip from 0-3 feet from the basket this season which is still well below the 65.6 percent league average.

Concisely, Dunn has shot the ball well from the most inefficient spots on the floor (mid-range jumpers) while shooting poorly from the more efficient spots on the floor (near the basket and 3-point field goals). Because of this, even though it feels like he has shot the ball much better during the Bulls recent 10-5 streak, Dunn is still way below league average in overall shooting.

Bulls Are Better Offensively With Dunn off the Floor

The poor shooting certainly contributes to this next, very surprising stat: in December, the Bulls had a 100.9 Offensive Rating with Dunn on the court 114.6 with him on the bench. During the 10-5 run, Dunn’s on-court ORtg of 102 is lowest for Bulls regulars.

For the entire season, the Bulls offensive rating has been four points higher with Dunn off the court.

If you want to compare these on/off splits to Dunn’s competition Jerian Grant, there’s some give and take because the Bulls are nearly six points better offensively with him on the court, but 5.4 points worse defensively when he plays.

Furthermore, in terms of two-man lineups, Dunn has been a net negative with all his teammates except Nikola Mirotic (+2.0 points per 100 possession) and David Nwaba (+2.4 points per 100 possessions) this season.

The overall game

Dunn addressed his shooting woes to Bulls.com writer Sam Smith.

You don’t have to be a shooter to be able to affect the game. There’s so much to the game to control and help the team. I want to become a good shooter, but at the same time I don’t listen to that.

Dunn is probably right about this, and it’s important to remember he’s a very good defensive player with the tools to be among the league’s best at controlling opposing point guards. But even there he’s still getting into foul trouble: per 100 possessions he fouls the 2nd-most of any starting guard in the league, and is among the top-ten of rotation-level guards.

This analysis may seem overly critical of Dunn, but it’s meant to remind everybody that he has a lot of room to improve even if optimistically projecting he’s going to be a great player for this team someday.

Take this in contrast to the showering of praise Dunn has received with surface-level, box score statistics and the always-tricky eye test. Dunn’s scoring has taken off compared to last season, and especially in this recent run. But that’s skewed by him taking up a lot of possessions: he’s 15th in the league in usage rate among point guards, and his inefficient scoring (2nd lowest TS% in that group) has realtively hurt the Bulls offense while even his impressive playmaking hasn’t been enough to negate it.