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PBT’S 2016 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Kris Dunn

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Kris Dunn was the most highly-regarded prospect that could have entered the 2015 NBA Draft and opted to return to school.

A potential lottery pick then, Dunn made the decision to return to Providence for what was technically his redshirt junior season — but which was, in actuality, his second full season of college basketball — in order to get his degree. That degree mattered to Dunn for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that he wanted to set an example for his brothers and sisters given his background.

It’s a terrific story, but the decision to return also afforded the point guard a chance to fix the glaring holes that he had in his game: his perimeter jumper and his turnovers.

To a point, he did that. But there was also plenty of reason to believe that some of those red flags are still red flags. How should you judge Dunn as a prospect?

Height: 6′ 4.25″
Weight: 205
Wingspan: 6′ 9.5″
2015-16 Stats: 16.4 points,, 6.2 assists, 5.3 boards, 2.5 steals, 3.5 turnovers, 37.2% 3PT

STRENGTHS: What Dunn does well he does at an elite, borderline all-star level. Let’s start with the defensive end of the floor, where I think Dunn has a chance to make an all-defensive team before his career comes to an end. Physically, he has all the tools you want to see in a defensive terror. He’s 6-foot-4 with a better-than 6-foot-9 wingspan. He’s got quick hands and quicker feet. He’s strong, he’s athletic, he can move laterally, he can jump a passing lane.

The knock on him is that he’s undisciplined on that end, gambling too much and getting himself out of position off the ball and against screens. That will come with coaching, and with a roster where he isn’t forced to do everything himself.

And there were times the last two seasons where he quite literally did do everything himself. He had 32 points, eight steals, six boards, five assists and two blocks in a win against Harvard. He had 15 points and seven assists in the second half at Butler when Providence erased a 13-point deficit on New Year’s Eve. He had 13 points and 14 assists in a win at Villanova, and 29 points in 26 minutes in the NCAA tournament against North Carolina. No one took over a game quite the way that Kris Dunn took over a game.

He’s at his best when he has the ball in his hands. His speed, handle and athleticism combined with his ability on the defensive glass allows him to be a one-man fast break. More than a quarter of his offense this season came in transition, and while his efficiency in this era is somewhat limited — we’re going to get to that — he’s very aggressive on the break and understands how to utilize his physical gifts to his advantage.

In half court setting, Dunn is at his best when he’s put into ball-screen actions. He understands how to change speeds, he can weave his way through defenders and, being that he favors his right hand a little too much when he penetrates, this allowed him to play to his strength. But what makes Dunn so dangerous is his court vision. He’s an unbelievable passer, particularly when he’s able to get into the paint and draw defenders. He finds shooters, he finds bigs rolling to the rim, he finds cutters from the weak side. He tries to do too much at times, but part of the reason for it is that there really isn’t a pass that he can’t make. His assist rate — the percentage of his teammate’s baskets he assisted on when he was on the floor — “dipped” to 41.8% last season after posting a ridiculous 50% in 2014-15.

He’s a better shooter from distance than he was a year ago, and his improvement from shooting less than 47 percent on shots around the rim to better than 58 percent is a really good sign; his ability to get into the lane means he’ll have plenty of opportunities at the rim. Ed Cooley took advantage of this, as he consistently utilized Dunn in low- and mid-post isolations.

Dunn has some notable warts, but the combination of those physical tools and that passing ability is really tantalizing.

WEAKNESSES: There are really two weaknesses in Dunn’s game, and they’re fairly glaring.

Let’s start with his shooting. On paper, his numbers not only look good but they are improved from where they were last season. As a sophomore, Dunn shot 35.1 percent from three and attempted just 2.3 per game. As a junior, he made 37.2 percent of his triples while shooting 3.4 per game. A higher percentage on more attempts is progress, but the issue with Dunn is that the consistency isn’t there yet.

The issue isn’t just on a game-by-game basis. It’s on a shot-to-shot basis. He lacks consistency in his stroke, which is why there are times where he’ll fire up a picture-perfect step-back jumper over a defender and other times where he’s firing up lasers that make you feel bad for the pounding the backboard takes. He’s also a better three-point shooter than he is mid-range shooter. He shot just 28.1 percent on jumpers inside the three-point line and 33 percent on pull-ups jumpers in general.

This is a fixable problem, one that Dunn has already put in a significant amount of time to improve, but it’s still an issue, percentages aside.

Dunn’s other issue is his decision-making. Before we get into this, it is important to note that, while Dunn did spend four years in college, he saw his first two seasons end due to shoulder injuries. He’s a senior in terms of age, but he’s more of a sophomore in terms of experience. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s alarming to see a 22-year old point guard making some of the mistakes that Dunn has made the last two years.

He averaged 3.5 turnovers last season, which is an incredibly high number for anyone, let alone a point guard, regardless of their usage rate or the fact that it was an improvement from the season before, when he coughed the ball up 4.2 times-a-night. Those turnover numbers would be higher if bad shots were counted as well. Dunn really has the full-range of turnovers in his arsenal: He tries to make the highlight reel play instead of the simple play. He forces the action against a set defense with wild drives into the lane. He throws lazy passes and he’s sloppy with the ball in his hands.

And that’s to say nothing of his affinity for gambling for steals that he doesn’t really have a chance to get. There were a number of times this season where Dunn was forced to the bench because a dumb foul put him in foul trouble. He also liked gambling for steals, which left him out of position defensively too often. There’s legitimate reason to believe that the Providence roster forced him into this — more on that in a bit — which is why, like the shooting issues, this may be fixable.

But regardless of what his supporting cast consisted of, these are very real concerns for Dunn.

In a league that is increasingly reliant on efficiency numbers to determine a player’s value, Dunn finishing with an offensive rating on KenPom.com of 103.6 (which is pretty bad) while notching 0.877 points-per-possession, according to Synergy’s logs (which is worse).

NBA COMPARISON: John Wall is the comparison that everyone loves to make with Dunn, and I guess it makes sense. They have the same physical profile and basic skill sets — operate well in pick-and-rolls, struggle with consistent three-point shooting, turnover prone. And while Dunn is a tremendous defender, he doesn’t have the same kind of speed or burst that Wall has. That limits what Dunn’s ceiling is.

The name that I think may actually hold more water as a comparison is with Rajon Rondo, minus the baggage. While Dunn is taller than Rondo, the two actually have the same wingspan. Both are elite defenders and playmakers with issues shooting from the perimeter. Both can grab a defensive rebound and lead a break. Dunn is probably more well-rounded as a scorer and I’m not quite sure that he’ll be the same caliber of playmaker — Rondo has averaged at least 9.8 assists in six of his ten seasons in the league and better than 11 assists in four of those years — but I think that in terms of ceiling and impact, Rondo may be a better comp than Wall.

OUTLOOK: Here’s my biggest question when it comes to Dunn as an NBA player: How much of the inefficiency and decision-making issues that we saw over the course of the last two seasons at Providence were a result of who he had around him?

This past year, the Friars had one of the best 1-2 punches in college basketball … and not much else. Some of the guys on the roster were capable of putting together a big game here or there, but it was fairly obvious by the end of non-conference play how defenses were going to be guarding the Friars — essentially putting three people in the lane in front of Dunn and daring anyone else to try and beat them — and that Dunn had lost faith in the idea that his teammates would consistently help him win.

Did he force things offensively because he knew that was the only chance the Friars had to win? Did he gamble defensively because he got frustrated trying to score against a set defense?

And here’s the other question: Just how healthy is he? We seem to gloss over the fact that Dunn essentially missed his first two seasons in college due to shoulder injuries.

Assuming his shoulder is durable enough to hold up for 82 games year-in and year-out, I think Dunn has a relatively high floor as a prospect. He’s going to be an all-NBA caliber defender and he’s going to have an impact as a playmaker. Whether that’s as a starter on a playoff or as an impact member of someone’s second unit is up to him.

Report: Bulls likely to keep Jim Boylen as coach for financial reasons

Bulls coach Jim Boylen
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The Bulls appeared ready to fire Jim Boylen. After all, Chicago just hired a new team president in Arturas Karnisovas who’d want to pick his own coach. That was unlikely to be Boylen, whose tenure had been defined by players disliking him, ill-timed timeouts and losing.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

But as the Sun-Times learned this week, even if Karnisovas didn’t like what he would have seen from Boylen he would likely be handcuffed from making a change.

According to several sources, there is strong growing momentum that financial concerns the Reinsdorfs have about the 2020-21 NBA season will keep Boylen in his current seat, as well as most of the coaching staff.

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf has earned a reputation for his frugality. However, the economic downturn surrounding the coronavirus pandemic has caused many teams to tighten their belts. The financial consequences will likely continue into next season.

But this puts Chicago at a disadvantage.

Boylen has looked like one of the NBA’s worst coaches. Though Bulls ownership is more optimistic than most on Boylen and he could exceed expectations, it’s telling that Chicago probably wouldn’t have kept him based on merit. This is about saving money and hoping for the best.

That’s obviously great news for Boylen. He has improved significantly since taking over last season. More time on the job could allow him to grow into it. That said, improving from a near-mutiny in his early days doesn’t exactly mean he’s in an acceptable place now. Boylen still has a long way to go, and it could be more difficult if players are tired of him.

Nets fined $25K for injury-reporting violation

Brooklyn Nets
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Earlier this season, Kyrie Irving missed several weeks with a shoulder injury. Throughout the absence, the Nets provided few details and no clear timeline. Eventually, a report said Irving could miss 2-3 additional weeks with bursitis. The Nets denied it. Later, Irving confirmed he had bursitis then returned nearly three weeks after the report.

Finally, Brooklyn caught the league’s ire.

NBA release:

The NBA today announced that the Brooklyn Nets have been fined $25,000 for failing to comply with league policies governing injury reporting.

It’s unclear what specifically caused this violation. Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Jamal Crawford and Rodions Kurucs have all appeared on the Nets’ injury report during the resumption. As 19-point underdog, Brooklyn pulled a historic upset of the Bucks. Remember, public injury disclosures are primarily about preserving gambling integrity.

For the NBA not to reveal even basic details while fining the Nets for their lack of transparency is ironic. It’s also ironic this fine comes amid a restart that featured the NBA being highly secretive about player heath.

The Clippers got fined $50,000 earlier this season for saying Kawhi Leonard was healthy. What did Brooklyn do that was less egregious but still worth of a fine?

LeBron James says Lakers have off-court issues, out vs. Rockets (groin)

Lakers star LeBron James
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The Lakers’ offense has stumbled so far in the bubble.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

LeBron gave a weird answer about this. He agreed that he and the Lakers were looking for a rhythm on offense. And then he said: “It’s just some things that you can’t control that’s here, that I really don’t want to talk about, that’s off the floor.”

Mike Trudell of the Lakers:

Was LeBron referring to his groin injury? I wouldn’t call that an off-court issue, but maybe he would.

LeBron knows how to work the media. This subtle comment will draw attention and sets up LeBron to look better if he leads the Lakers through this mysterious issue.

Without more context, it’s easy for imaginations to wander – especially about a team with Dwight Howard, Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith. The Lakers could be facing a major hurdle. Or a minor nuisance. Who knows? But the unknown is scary.

It’ll be difficult to detect the Lakers’ progress during remaining seeding games. The Lakers have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and without a home-court advantage in the NBA Finals, there’s no reason to chase the NBA’s best overall record. That’s why LeBron missing tonight’s game against the Rockets could be mostly precautionary.

76ers: Ben Simmons suffered subluxation of knee cap, considering treatment options

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Ben Simmons injured his knee during the 76ers’ win over the Wizards yesterday.

The diagnosis is in, and the prognosis sounds worrisome.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

How quickly will Simmons recover? Once he recovers, will he face elevated risk of re-injury?

These questions now haunt Simmons and Philadelphia.

Simmons is a young star who’ll begin a max contract extension next season. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons opened Philadelphia’s championship window, and now rain is drizzling through. Philadelphia can’t reach it ceiling without Simmons healthy and providing value.

Even more modest goals in a disjointed season will be more difficult to reach.

The 76ers were just adjusting to playing Simmons at power forward. Now, they must again re-configure their plan – maybe for a significant chunk of the remainder of the season.

Even more burden falls onto Embiid, who has been shouldering so much with this mismatched roster. Simmons plays across the positional spectrum, so any number of 76ers could fill in while he’s out. Many of those lesser players will complement Embiid more smoothly than Simmons did. But the talent deficit without Simmons can’t be offset.

That’s the scary issue for now – and maybe a while.