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Former Bull Kris Dunn kept belief in journey back to Jazz, NBA

Defensive-minded guard has improved offensive game, become spot starter, rotation piece in Utah

Former Bull Kris Dunn has found a home in Utah.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

SALT LAKE CITY --- It takes a tough-minded player to travel the journey that Kris Dunn did.

Dunn, the former No. 5 overall pick and Chicago Bulls guard, spent the majority of two full seasons in the G League, waiting to seize the next opportunity. Injuries, bus rides, talk that his offensive game couldn't stack up---none of that deterred Dunn.

And when the Utah Jazz called, he was ready, turning 10-day contracts into a two-year deal and regular rotational role with spot starts, including Wednesday against his former team.

"The love of the game," Dunn said before the Bulls-Jazz game, when asked what kept him going. "I love basketball. The game always kept me out of trouble. I always loved the competitiveness of it. I think you could tell. When I was in the G League, I was coming off the bench and still going after it, attacking it. I felt like I could always be an NBA player again and just had to put in the work."

Acquired from Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler trade, Dunn averaged 10.7 points, 5.1 assists and 1.8 steals in his three seasons in Chicago. Alongside current teammate Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine, he flashed plenty of high points, particularly defensively, as the Bulls endured a rebuilding period.

But he shot just 31 percent from 3-point range and 43 percent overall. And when the new management regime entered in 2020, Dunn didn't receive a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Injuries plagued his time with the Atlanta Hawks and, following two trades, he was waived by the Memphis Grizzlies. A 10-day contract with the Portland Trail Blazers at the tail end of the 2021-22 season led to a 14-game NBA stint.

But not until Utah signed him did Dunn find a home.

He has shot 40 percent from 3-point range and 50 percent overall during his 76 games before Wednesday, including 30 starts. All while playing his typical in-your-face defense.

"His 3-point shooting has for sure improved. That's just a fact," Jazz coach Will Hardy said. "When his feet are set and he's open, I think it's going in. He has shot well enough where teams are really respecting him from 3-point range.

"Kris is better without a screen. He's better as a one-on-one player. He has a herky-jerky style and he's pretty physical. He's good at playing off two feet. So when he gets in the paint, he has made some pretty good decisions. His floater and those type of finishes have been pretty good for him.

"I think Kris also has settled in as a pro. I don't think he's worried about scoring when he goes into a game in a way where maybe he was when he was younger. He defines himself by defense first and on the offensive end, he has done a great job of getting the team organized and his play just generally makes sense. He doesn't seem like somebody is hunting points in a way that maybe he was earlier in his career."

Dunn said he always believed he'd get back to this level.

"I always knew I was going to get back," he said. "The main thing with me was the health part. I had to get my body back and then my shooting. I had to clean those two things up."

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