Chicago Bulls point guard Kris Dunn will be an interesting NBA free agent to monitor for additional reasons, other than just his polarizing playing style.
While next month will hold a different kind of NBA action than we’re accustomed to, it’s important to remember the main event July has held in the past, NBA’s free agency frenzy. In a few weeks, it’ll be easy for NBA fans to forget about free agency, the draft lottery, and the draft, with 22 teams returning from what will be a four-and-a-half month hiatus to play for the Larry O’Brien trophy in the league’s most bizarre season in its history.
However, while the league’s best will be competing in Walt Disney World’s Wide World of Sports, their front offices and those of the uninvited eight teams already planning for the future, will be back at work, retooling their teams for the grueling 2021 season beginning in December. In this series, I am examining the market for the top five free agent point guards, and through statistics and peer comparison, I have roughly predicted what their new deals may look like.
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Kris Dunn will be an interesting free agent to monitor for additional reasons, other than just his polarizing playing style. Due to a right knee injury in February, and the shortened season, Dunn failed to start enough games, or play enough minutes to reach the starter’s criteria this past season, meaning the qualifying offer that the Chicago Bulls can, and most likely will offer him this summer will be a smaller number than people may have originally predicted.
Therefore, Dunn will likely enter free agency as a restricted free agent, but with the Bulls already set at point guard in Coby White and Tomas Satoransky, it’s hard to envision a situation in which they match another team’s offer.
Kris Dunn’s strengths and weaknesses
When examining Dunn’s game, the two things that stick out are his defense and 3-point shooting, but for vastly different reasons. Earlier in the season, Dunn accepted the bench role that Bulls coach Jim Boylen carved out for him, and bought into the coach’s idea that he can be an anchor in the team’s revamped defense. Dunn’s compliance paid dividends, as he averaged two steals per game, trailing only league leader Ben Simmons, while only playing 24.3 minutes a night.
Dunn, who turned 26 in March, has proven he belongs in the club of the NBA’s elite defensive guards. However, it’s hard to keep praising the Providence alum without shifting towards discussing his shooting woes, an area that got even worse by the numbers this year.
Dunn’s per 36 three-point numbers were the worst of his career, shooting 3.2 per game at 25.9 percent. It will be interesting to see the team that decides to pursue him, whether or not that team has invested in a guard like Dunn in the past, or if they’re ready for the challenge that Dunn presents.
Who should target him?
The Los Angeles Clippers showed interest in Dunn around the trade deadline, and it poses the question if they have hopes of turning Dunn into potentially a bigger version of Pat Beverly. Pat Bev’s age-28 season in 2016-17, the year before arriving in LA, he put up the best defensive season of his career in Houston.
He averaged 1.5 steals per game in 30.7 minutes, 2.4 defensive win shares, a 106.3 defensive rating, and earned a First-Team All-Defense nod. Dunn this past season at 26, averaged 2 defensive win shares, but a stellar 103.6 defensive rating. However, the difference is that Beverly shot 38.2 percent on 4.3 attempts that season, and hasn’t had a season shooting under 35 percent from beyond the arc to date.
Another team that can make sense for Dunn is the Boston Celtics, a team looking to potentially add a backup point guard in place of another free agent, Brad Wanamaker. Boston has experienced in the past the pains of a guard who struggles to shoot, specifically during the earlier years of Marcus Smart’s career. During both his age-21 and 22 campaigns, Smart shot below the 30 percent mark from deep.
However, the age gap matters, and Smart, now 25 years old, is shooting 6.9 threes per game at a 34.8 percent clip. A new contract for Dunn can go two different ways. In the past, we’ve seen former lottery picks with still much to prove, like Dante Exum in 2017-18, ink a multi-year deal for between $10 million and $11 million annually, but Exum ultimately re-signed with the team that drafted him.
Exum’s deal was three years, $33 million (including incentives), giving the Utah Jazz a little more wiggle room to work with under the salary cap thanks to owning his Bird Rights. With Dunn unlikely to return to Chicago, combined with the salary cap projected to take a hit, and the small leverage Dunn lost with his qualifying offer, a smaller, “prove-it” type of deal for Dunn might be most realistic.
Dunn reeling in a two year deal between $6 million and $8 million annually, with a player option after the first year could be in store for him. He’ll have an opportunity to hit unrestricted free agency again in a year or two with more to show under his belt.