Player Preview: Kris Dunn's growth critical for his, Bulls' future


Player: Kris Dunn
Position: Point guard
Year: 3rd
17-18 stats: 13.4 points, 6.0 assists, 2.0 steals

Outlook: Kris Dunn’s unexpected leap turned out to be one of the most delightful surprises of the 2017-18 season for the Bulls. As part of the Jimmy Butler draft night trade, many wondered if he was more an object of the front office’s affection than a future centerpiece at the game’s deepest position.

What he showed was a competitiveness and growing confidence that was stifled in his rookie season under the harsh hand of Tom Thibodeau. Once he took command as a starter over Jerian Grant, he never looked back and many can attribute the Bulls’ best stretch of the season to Dunn’s energy.

Now, entering his third year he’s firmly in the “good but not great” category, a no-man’s land spot of sorts for a front office that may have to make a long-term decision on Dunn following the season. The Bulls can lock him up to an extension next summer or allow him to go into restricted free agency following his fourth season.

While that seems to be eons away and Dunn certainly has time to keep moving on the trajectory he started hitting last season, the upcoming year will still be critical as he’ll have the on-floor responsibility of making an awkward but talented group mesh with a full season of Zach LaVine and the addition of Jabari Parker.

Fred Hoiberg has the toughest job of all, but Dunn has to bring whatever gameplan Hoiberg employs to life—and considering the run he was on before his unfortunate fall against the Golden State Warriors that caused him to miss valuable time, he’ll want to reclaim that spot and keep pressing forward.

Defensively, he can be a problem on the ball for opposing point guards and that’s his strongest suit.

Offensively, he may have to spend more time off the ball with LaVine able to create opportunities and Parker having the ability to create his own shot as easy as anyone on the roster. Many times last season he was the lone shot creator on the floor and thus could dictate the offense without having his lack of 3-point shooting be exploited by way of defenses shrinking the floor.

Shooting 29.6 percent from 3 via the catch-and-shoot variety has to improve if this lineup has any chance of working offensively, otherwise teams will sag away from Dunn to help on LaVine, Parker and Lauri Markkanen.

But Dunn has been good on the screen-and-roll, especially with Markkanen and realized very early the key to his own success would be largely tied to getting Markkanen great shots in the flow of the offense.

That responsibility still stands but the focus slightly shifts due to the roster construction and one wonders if the makeup will allow for all its young players to grow at a similar pace without conflict.

Dunn could be the face of the test case.

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