Kris Dunn’s supreme physical gifts and knack for effective distribution are reasons to buy his hype as a prospect, but his shooting woes and occasionally questionable decision-making have given some scouts cause for concern.
Dunn is an incredible athlete. He loves running into the open floor, he gets in the lane and forces turnovers, and he can throw down a fierce dunk on almost any unsuspecting defender. His athleticism suggests he is a “high ceiling” type of prospect, but his age suggests he’s closer to his prime years than one would think.
For this reason, I do not agree that his closest comparison is Wizards’ point guard John Wall.
Unlike Wall, Dunn took 3-4 years to reach an NBA level in college, whereas Wall was ready to enter the league immediately following his freshman season. Wall’s freshman averages are arguably better than Dunn’s senior averages, while blowing his underclassmen years out of the water.
Mar 19, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) shoots the ball past North Carolina Tar Heels forward Justin Jackson (44) in the second half during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Wall and Dunn aren’t all that similar in terms of play-style either. Their bodies are almost identical, but Wall is a far superior decision maker and his scoring affects his team offense in a very different way.
Though no player perfectly aligns with Dunn, the closest comparison available is Rajon Rondo.
Rondo and Dunn both excel at creating offense from scratch.
In a league where system players are becoming more and more common, Rondo and Dunn are effectively non-system players. Rather than thriving off screens, complex plays, and the work of their teammates, Dunn and Rondo are the type of players who you simply hand the ball to and say “create!”
There are pros and cons to non-system players.
On one hand, it raises the floor of your team offense. Very rarely will your offense go on extend stretches without scoring, and you can generally use them as “last resort” type of option.
When the clock is running down for the Kings, handing the ball to Rondo and letting him dive into traffic isn’t a bad option to try to get the team going.
Dunn possesses the same abilities. He isn’t a great system player, but if you give him the ball and let him work he can put up solid numbers. He averaged 7.5 assists a game his 3rd season in the NCAA, but it came at the cost of 4.2 assists to match.
This will ultimately by the defining question of Dunn’s career. We know he will put up numbers, but will it be worth it?
Feb 2, 2016; Rosemont, IL, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) reacts during the second half against the DePaul Blue Demons at Allstate Arena. DePaul defeats Providence 77-70. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Dunn also struggles as a shooter. He’s a career 35% three-point shooter, but that’s only on wide open opportunities and on just over 2 attempt per game. He’s also inconsistent from the free throw line, where he has shot roughly 69% his entire career and has yet to improve.
Rondo faced the same criticisms. His DraftExpress profile includes this quote explaining his limited range:
“Does not look to shoot that often, and for good reason. Possesses a slow, deliberate jump-shot that is extremely inconsistent outside of 17-feet. Struggles with his pull-up jumper and is often not even guarded out on the perimeter by the opposition.”
If you’re being reminded of Tyreke Evans at the moment, you should be.
Just like Tyreke, players like Rondo and Dunn can be harmful to your team if you want to play “smart” and run an offense which encourages everyone to get involved and look for the best shot possible.
Teams like Golden State and San Antonio run plays where they pass the ball six or seven times before taking an open shot. With a player like Dunn, that kind of cerebral strategy might not even be an option.
The fact that Dunn doesn’t have a high IQ doesn’t mean he would be useless for the Pelicans. He could contribute, but his level of contribution would mirror Tyreke Evans far more than John Wall.
He would be younger and cheaper, but the regular love/hate relationship Pelicans have with Tyreke would feel very familiar if they the team drafted Dunn this summer.
Rondo is very similar to Dunn defensively. Though Dunn has a solid three inches on Rondo, they both have identical 6’9″ wingspans (which is arguably more important). Rondo has averaged 1.8 steals a game for his career in the NBA, while Dunn averaged 2.2 in college.
They are both fantastic at going for steals and can disrupt passing lanes with their long arms and quick reflexes. Unlike Tyreke Evans, Dunn would probably be an elite defender for the Pelicans after he gets a couple of years of experience under his belt.
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My favorite similarity between Dunn and Rondo is their knack for grabbing boards. Dunn averaged 6.5 rebounds per game for his career per 40 minutes, and has been a triple double threat on a nightly basis.
Meanwhile Rondo grabbed 6.0 per game this season and is known for having signature “Rondo” triple doubles where he grabs rebound totals in the ‘teens.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Dunn had a similar career arc to Rondo as well. I think he will be a fun player to watch and attract a cult fan-base, but analytics guys who run the numbers will be turned off by his shooting woes and unattractive usage percentages.
Some will marvel at his impressive assist totals, while others argue he is slowing down the game for his own personal benefit.
Mar 13, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) passes the ball while defended by Villanova Wildcats guard Phil Booth (5) during the first half of a semifinal game of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Dunn may very well fall to the Pelicans. He has a lot to offer as a multipurpose defender who can fill up the stat sheet, but his play style and IQ might not make him a great fit in Alvin Gentry’s fluid offense.
The question to ask is whether the Pelicans feel comfortable trying to “fix” a player they know has a fundamental issue, rather than drafting a lesser one with fewer red flags.
If Dunn can seriously improve his decision-making and IQ, he might be able to raise his ceiling. If he fails to adapt to the modern NBA, he might struggle to find a home…..