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How Kris Dunn steals basketballs

He is absolutely killing it in this department

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Chicago Bulls v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Chicago Bulls point guard Kris Dunn is fond of describing himself as a canine. He’s been quoted recently saying he is a hound. More well-documented is his use of the word ‘dawg’ to describe himself on the basketball court.

Might need nickname-maker Stacey King to update this to be more descriptive of Dunn’s greatest attribute, his ability to steal the ball.

Dunn isn’t just good at getting steals. Saying that he is very good at this skill may be still selling him a bit short at this point. If he keeps swiping at the pace he’s at now, he’s entering the historically-elite category.

Since 2000, only two players have finished a season averaging at least three steals per 36 minutes. We’re going with at least 10 games played and 820 minutes total for a season (which is a modest 10 minutes per game stretched across an entire 82 game season) as the parameters to qualify a player for this leaderboard.

The two players that made the cut were Metta World Peace during the 2001-2002 season and Tony Allen during the 2010-2011 season. Those two players have five NBA All-Defense First Team selections between them.

Through 32 games, Dunn is on pace to put his name on that list.

He leads the NBA in steals per 36 minutes this season. He is second in the NBA in total steals despite playing significantly fewer minutes than most others in the top 50 on that list. Ben Simmons has two more steals than Dunn despite playing over 300 more minutes this season.

Why is Dunn so darn good at stealing basketballs away from opponents?


NBC Sports Chicago writer K.C. Johnson recently wrote an entire profile on Dunn having this skill. Read it there instead of my regurgitation here.

Here’s an example of Dunn showcasing his pickpocketing skills.

Full-Court Pressure

Dunn works hard defensively.

This is why Patrick Beverley is so notorious for his defensive prowess. NBA guards aren’t used to being pressured all the way down the floor, so this really makes them uncomfortable and also eats away at seconds on the shot clock before the guard can start running the offense.

Down 18 in the third quarter of an otherwise lethargic effort by the Bulls, Kris Dunn is the one guy who is still playing feisty.

Jumping Passing Lanes

Dunn’s ability to know when to drift off the guy he is guarding and take the calculated risk of jumping into passing lanes is a big reason why he is the premiere steal-getter in the NBA.

It’s a combination of instincts and high basketball IQ that has served him well all season and throughout his career on the defensive side of the ball.

That Darn Blitzing Defense

The Bulls blitzing style of pick-and-roll defense predicated on aggressively sending two defenders at the ball handler has issues especially given the composition of this roster.

But the one thing that it has helped the Bulls do is generate turnovers at a league-high rate. The pressure the two defenders put on the ball handlers forces them into mistakes and the guys off the ball often then get credited with the steals the two players blitzing helped to generate with that pressure.

In this play, Aaron Gordon loses the ball trying to dribble his way out of a blitzing double team. The ball rolls over to Kris Dunn who gets credit for the steal even though he doesn’t do a ton on this play. credits Dunn with the steal in the following play which is a little interesting. But regardless, Dunn helps Lauri Markkanen trap Dennis Schroder on the baseline, puts his hands up, and knocks a pass away even though he isn’t the one who ends up with the ball.

Once Schroeder gets caught on the baseline and jumps without anywhere to go he is screwed. The blitzing defense causes this and Dunn is the beneficiary as he is the one who ends up getting credit for the steal.

Largely because of his ability to generate turnovers, Kris Dunn has turned into one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. And in doing so while starting at small forward, he has suddenly become one of the more important players on this Chicago Bulls team.