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Why a second unit role could fit Kris Dunn

promotion by demotion

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Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Getting a new point guard and keeping Kris Dunn around doesn’t have be mutually exclusive concepts.

According to NBC Sports Chicago’s Mark Strotman (via), having Dunn as the backup point guard next season may not be such a bad thing.

Strotman ran the numbers on Dunn last season, and found that Dunn struggled especially alongside of Zach LaVine, he of the team-leading 30.5 percent usage percentage.

Here’s Strotman’s explanation for the numbers.

You’d think that in games that LaVine sat that Dunn would have taken on a larger role, but that wasn’t really the case. Consider Dunn averaged less than 2 additional touches per game while playing just an extra minute. That’s essentially a wash, and despite LaVine – the team’s leading scorer – being sidelined, Dunn actually averaged more assists (1.2 per game) on four fewer passes per game.

Fewer passes on the same amount of touches, of course, meant more shot attempts. Dunn averaged four more shots per game with LaVine out and shot considerably better – seven whole percentage points. This came, in large part, because he was more aggressive, averaging 14.6 drives per game (to put that in perspective, Luka Doncic averaged 14.7 drives per game this past season).

Those drives meant better looks and passes and, most importantly, more free throws. Dunn averaged 2.3 free throw attempts in the 10 games LaVine missed. That’s not a promising number in most cases, but consider that in the 36 games the two played together, Dunn averaged just 1.2 attempts. Put another way, 33% (23) of Dunn’s total free throw attempts (69) came in just 21% of his games, and they happened to be the ones LaVine sat out (much more on Dunn and FTs later).

Presumably, avoiding playing LaVine and Dunn together means Dunn goes into a second unit role with guys like Denzel Valentine, Chandler Hutchison, and (maybe) Robin Lopez. Alongside guys like this, you want Dunn controlling the offense with the ball in his hands and being aggressive which plays into his strengths offensively.

Of course, there’s the argument about whether Dunn is even a better option in that role than Ryan Arcidiacono. What Dunn has going for him is the Bulls have more invested in him, and that’s probably part of the reason they won’t give up on him despite his struggles. Dunn also has more natural talent and a higher ceiling.

But Dunn is turning 26 years old next season so his time to prove he has value as an NBA point guard is winding down. A demotion to the second unit could be a second chance at NBA life for the former fifth overall pick. What also remains to be seen is if Dunn is willing to accept that demotion.