As noted in our breakdown of the roster, Kris Dunn’s future in Chicago is up in the air. His rookie contract has now expired, but Chicago is able to make a qualifying offer of $7.1M which would turn him into an restricted free agent. Let’s take a look at reasons why they should or shouldn’t try to keep Dunn around at that price or potentially a long-term deal.
This 2019-20 season was an interesting one for Dunn. It started with the Bulls showing a lack of faith in him as they added Tomas Satoransky and Coby White. As a result of the decrease in minutes and overall touches, Dunn’s per-game numbers dropped in points (7.3), assists (3.4), and rebounds (3.6).
However, Dunn got better in terms of his offensive efficiency, with his true shooting and eFG percentages going up by almost three points each.
His defensive box plus/minus rating leaped up from 0.2 to 3.1. With less offensive responsibilities, Dunn was able to hone in on that end of the floor. Dunn was the Bulls best perimeter defender this past season, using his aggressiveness to hound opposing guards and make it difficult for them to generate their own offense. Just this week, some end-of-season awards were handed out unofficially by media, and Dunn made all-defensive teams of both John Hollinger and Zach Lowe.
Why The Bulls Should Keep Dunn:
As noted earlier, Dunn’s defense is superb. With his 6’9 wingspan, he’s able to get his hands into passing lanes to force turnovers. Dunn is super active when facing a defender with the ball, right up in their face while able to quickly shuffle his feet to stay in front of them. He’ll fight through screens and can recover quickly if beaten off the dribble. The wingspan also comes in handy when it comes to contesting jumpers.
Dunn is second in the NBA in steals per game with two, barely behind Ben Simmons (2.1) for first. Even if he doesn’t nab the ball away, Dunn is still creating havoc and knocking the ball loose. He leads the NBA in deflections per 36 minutes (5.4) and averages 3.7 per game, fourth-highest in the league. Causing turnovers and disrupting plays is something he can do pretty well, and it happens to be the main tenet of the current Bulls defensive scheme. Dunn is the driving catalyst as to why Chicago leads the league in deflections per game at 17.4. Although it doesn’t directly correlate to being a good defensive team, forcing deflections can mess up the offensive flow of a play and throw things out of wack. But on the flip side, it does mean extended risk, which at times does lead to easy baskets for the opposition.
On the offensive side, Dunn has seemed to find an ability to get to the hoop. He is tied for third-highest on the Bulls when it comes to drives per game at seven. When it comes to shots at the rim, Dunn was very efficient this past season and shot 64.7 percent from there. His offensive struggles have been well-documented so it is nice to see him improve even if it’s just one area. Dunn’s also shown that he is taking better shots by shying away from the contested mid-range efforts we have seen in the past.
Dunn’s bread and butter when he first arrived in Chicago was his defensive ability, and it hasn’t changed. His ability to cause chaos by knocking away passes and get in opposing point guards faces to eliminate space is always appreciated. Dunn relishes playing on this side of the ball. With the majority of Chicago’s guards more offensive-centric, Dunn offers a nice change of pace off the bench. He showed he can carve out a role for himself on this team and he thrive as a defensive stopper.
Why They Shouldn’t:
Despite an uptick in advanced shooting metrics, the offense is still a massive struggle for Dunn. He recorded an offensive box plus/minus of -3.7 in 19-20, his lowest total since his rookie season. Despite averaging nearly the same amount of three-point attempts per game as last season, Dunn’s numbers from downtown got worse. He shot a career-low 25.9 percent from three and floor-spacing will still be an issue when he is on the floor. Defenses will force him to beat them from three. They are going to keep sagging off him, making it easier to step into the lane to stop a drive or rotate over for help defense. Defenders will keep going under screens as they are willing to concede that shot. The floor gets shrunk and it becomes harder for the Bulls playmakers to operate off the dribble with one extra defender there to stop them.
Another problem offensively is playmaking. His assist percentage tanked as it went to 19.4 percent after being at 30.4 the previous season. If he’s not attacking the rim then Dunn has to still be a threat offensively, this includes being able to move the ball to find open teammates or to put them in situations which lead to a solid shot attempt.
Dunn can certainly cause turnovers on defense but he does on offense too. Dunn still struggles with being over-aggressive on offense at times, forcing things when they are not there. It may be a drive into a cluster of defenders in the lane, resulting in the ball being knocked out of his hands. Other times it may be an errant pass which was too overambitious to make. Chicago already leaks points on the defensive end so giving up even more opportunities to score are often killer blows. Making the play, whether it be a shot attempt or pass when it opens up instead of forcing things should be part of the offensive development heading into the 2020-21 season.
As Dunn is already heading into his fifth season at age 26, it’s reasonable to ask if this is just who he is when it comes to the offensive side of the ball.
He has also struggled to simply be on the court, whether a result of his sometimes-reckless playing style or just poor luck. Yet another knee sprain ended his 19-20 season early.
Bring him back on a short term deal.
With the Bulls rebuilding once again, the decision to bring Dunn back is up in the air. There is a new front office and they will want to implement their version of a successful roster starting with this year’s draft. If there is another guard coming in, and Satoransky, White, Aricidiacono already under contract (with Shaq Harrison another RFA), then Dunn may be the odd one out of the group.
However, if another of those guys are moved it seems like a smart move to keep Dunn to a short-term deal like the qualifying offer may provide. It can work for both sides: Dunn’s defensive contributions are much needed despite the offensive woes, and Dunn stays in a situation where he’ll get minutes on a young, rebuilding team.