Otto Porter

Kris Dunn
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Kris Dunn, under cascade of bust talk and Bulls demotion, mounting strong defense

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Kris Dunn‘s rookie year with the Timberwolves was glum.

Losing. Shaken confidence. Minutes on the wing rather than his preferred position of point guard.

But when I first talked to Dunn about that season, he spoke almost with a pride about the experience.

He persevered. He advanced. And he was getting his opportunity.

It was late in the 2017-18 season. The Bulls had acquired Dunn from Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler trade the previous summer. Chicago was as desperate at point guard as Dunn was to play the position. The Bulls had been muddled at point guard ever since Derrick Rose got hurt. Jerian Grant, Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams and Cameron Payne each had turns as Chicago’s point guard du jour. As the extremely hyped No. 5 pick in the 2016 draft, Dunn looked more promising than any candidate yet.

But Dunn didn’t capitalize. He wasn’t good enough his first season with the Bulls and regressed last season. Chicago drafted Coby White and signed Tomas Satoransky at point guard last summer. Dunn said the Bulls didn’t even engage him in contract-extension talks.

Dunn looked like a bust who wouldn’t be long for Chicago.

Yet, Dunn is not only still there, he’s starting at small forward and making a real case for an All-Defensive team.

“When adversity hits,” Dunn said, “I don’t fold.”

Dunn surprisingly earned a rotation spot to begin the season. Then, when Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison got hurt, Bulls coach Jim Boylen shocked even Dunn by tabbing him as the replacement starting small forward.

“I ain’t a three,” Dunn said. “But I can hold my own.

“I’m not afraid of a challenge or anything. Whatever the team needs from me, that’s what I try to do. If they say, ‘Kris, we need you at the four,’ f— it. As long as I’m on the court, I love to play the game of basketball. And I’m going to do what I’ve got to do.”

Dunn said he “absolutely” still envisions becoming an NBA point guard. He views his current role as merely a product of what his team happens to need.

“It doesn’t take away what I’m capable of,” Dunn said. “I’m not going to let anything or anyone paint a narrative for me. I know I’m a point guard.”

I’m more skeptical. Dunn is a clunky outside shooter (26% on 3-pointers this season, 31% career). That’s a huge demerit for a lead guard to overcome.

But point guards tend to develop later than other positions. Dunn can attack the basket, and he’s a solid playmaker. If his shooting comes around, he has a chance.

In the meantime, Dunn is playing lights-out defense.

Among guards defensively, Dunn ranks second in real plus-minus (behind Alex Caruso), first in PIPM and second in RAPTOR (behind Donte DiVincenzo). If he keeps this up, Dunn must be taken seriously for an All-Defensive team.

Though he’s nominally a small forward, Dunn often defends the opponent’s best perimeter scorer, usually a guard. Unlike the bigger Porter, Dunn can take that burden off Zach LaVine and Satoransky.

Dunn – who’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan – has also thrived in Chicago’s aggressive and flowing defensive scheme. He has stolen the ball on 3.8% of opponents’ possessions, the highest steal percentage since Tony Allen.

Allen thrived in a different environment, though. Non-shooting defensive specialists have it harder than ever.

It seems telling, when listing Dunn’s offensive responsibilities, Boylen slipped in “defend at a high a level.”

Dunn’s defensive real plus-minus is +3.72. His offensive real plus-minus is 1.38. The difference between those marks – 5.10 – is one of the largest in the NBA. Nearly everyone else with a bigger spread between offensive and defensive real plus-minus are offensive-minded players.

Here are the players with the biggest differences between their offensive and defensive real plus-minus, the highest spread first. The right side of the bar marks the better rating. The left side of the bar marks the worse rating. Better offensive players are in black. Better defensive players are in red:

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Dunn will be a free agent next summer. The Bulls can make him restricted by extending a qualifying offer – a standing one-year offer a team must tender to preserve matching rights.

The cost of Dunn’s qualifying offer will be $4,642,800 or $7,091,457, depending on his role the rest of the season.

He’d get the higher qualifying offer by starting 19 of Chicago’s remaining 41 games or averaging slightly more than 24 minutes per remaining Bulls game. Dunn is currently averaging 24.8 minutes per game.

Sometimes, restricted status can get a player a bigger contract. It forces other teams to go over the top with an offer sheet. See a couple of Dunn’s teammates, Porter and Lavine. But it seems unlikely any team would covet Dunn enough to make that type of push for him.

So, a higher qualifying offer could help Dunn in one of two ways. He’d get a larger fallback salary if no other contract emerges. Or the Bulls would be less likely to extend a qualifying offer in the first place, making him unrestricted and allowing him more freedom to find a team that’ll use him at point guard.

Dunn expects to return to the bench once Porter gets healthy. That timeline could determine Dunn’s qualifying offer, though it’s also quite possible Chicago wouldn’t extend even the smaller qualifying offer.

Either way, Dunn’s defense is earning him playing time that’s useful in developing his offense.

“I hold myself at a high standard, and I want to be really good player in this league,” Dunn said. “And I have the abilities to do it. It’s just on honing my craft.”

Dunn, who’s averaging 7.2 points per game, isn’t hijacking the offense in a last-grasp attempt to prove himself. He lets Chicago’s other guards handle the playmaking and pitches in where he can – primarily defense. He’s doing exactly what the Bulls need from him.

“The biggest thing about Kris Dunn is he has a spirit for the team and a spirit for doing the right things,” Boylen said. “When you have that, good things happen to you.”

Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard on Davis Bertans: ‘We intend to keep him’

Wizards forward Davis Bertans
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Davis Bertans‘ combination of volume (8.5 attempts per game) and efficiency (45.6%) on 3-pointers is unprecedented in NBA history.

He’s also on an expiring contract and on a bad Wizards team.

That of course leads to speculation about teams trading for Bertans this season or signing him next summer.

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard on “Off The Bench” podcast:

We have every intention of retaining him. He’s the exact kind of player that we want to have in our organization. I think he wants to be here. Business will take care of itself. But in terms of, there’s so much chit-chat in this league that gets out there. And most of it is contrived by the teams that would love to have Davis. Well, guess what? One of the teams that would have to have him, has him. And we intend to keep him. So, we’re excited about his growth.

We’re less than a year removed from Wizards owner Ted Leonsis saying they wouldn’t trade Otto Porter then doing so anyway. Sheppard didn’t run the front office at that point, but Washington doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

At least the Wizards control whether they’ll trade Bertans. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer. He can sign wherever he wants, and plenty of teams could use a sharpshooter like him.

Maybe Washington will make the best offer. But the Wizards also owe big money to John Wall and Bradley Beal. Re-signing Bertans could make this team quite expensive and not necessarily good.

It’s unsurprising Washington would convey a plan to keep Bertans. If it’s true, it’s true. If it’s not, that’s the way to maximize his trade value.

But Sheppard didn’t have to go out of his way to put it so strongly publicly. That he did says something.

Bulls’ Otto Porter Jr out 2 weeks with bone bruise in foot

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CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls say forward Otto Porter Jr. has a bone bruise in his left foot and will be reassessed in two weeks.

The Bulls say a second MRI on Tuesday revealed the bruise, something “not apparent” on the first MRI.

“He had a second scan, and something showed up that didn’t show up on the first scan,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen told NBC Sports Chicago. “That’s tough, tough for him, feel bad for him. But we’ll treat him and move on.”

Chandler Hutchison had been filling in Porter’s spot in the rotation, but he is out indefinitely now with sore shins.

Porter, averaging 11.2 points in nine games, has been sidelined since he sprained his left foot at Atlanta on Nov. 6.

The Bulls were 4-10 with three straight losses heading into Wednesday’s game against Detroit.

Watch LeBron James’ third straight triple-double as Lakers rally past Bulls

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CHICAGO (AP) — LeBron James and Anthony Davis watched and cheered as Kyle Kuzma powered a big fourth-quarter run for Los Angeles.

Sure, James was his usual brilliant self. But Kuzma’s performance was a big deal for the rolling Lakers.

James had 30 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his third consecutive triple-double, and Los Angeles rallied to beat the Chicago Bulls 118-112 on Tuesday night for its sixth straight victory.

Kuzma scored 11 of his 15 points in the final period during his third game after missing the start of the season with a right ankle injury. The 24-year-old guard got hurt while playing for USA Basketball this past summer.

“I’m getting there,” Kuzma said. “It’s a process, I know. It’s all about being patient right now because I haven’t really had much basketball time since August.”

Kuzma averaged 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season. The Lakers are hoping he can provide a viable third option alongside the leading duo of James and Davis.

“Kuz got into a rhythm, and that’s what he’s capable of,” James said.

Los Angeles trailed by 19 before outscoring Chicago 38-19 in the fourth during the finale of a three-game trip. Kuzma began the quarter with seven straight points, part of a 16-0 run that lifted the Lakers to a 96-93 lead with 8:12 left.

James was on the bench for most of the big spurt, and Davis watched the entire run from the sideline.

“A.D. was in foul trouble. Bron was exhausted,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Both of those guys needed to stay on the bench and other guys needed to step up, and they did.”

Chicago lost for the fifth time in six games. Zach LaVine scored 26 points, and Wendell Carter Jr. had 11 points and 11 rebounds in his third straight double-double. Coby White and Otto Porter Jr. each scored 18 points.

“This one hurts,” LaVine said. “We were beating them up until the fourth quarter. We’re showing we can play with these teams. We know we’re talented. We’ve had 10-, 12-, 16-point leads on a lot of teams, but we’re losing games. It’s frustrating.”

The Bulls used a 16-2 run to open a 60-42 lead with 2:49 left in the first half. Carter’s two foul shots made it 63-44 with 2:10 to go.

“We’ve got to learn to finish,” coach Jim Boylen said. “They finished and we didn’t.”

Kuzma got some help as the Lakers rallied in the fourth. Quinn Cook scored eight of his season-high 17 in the final period. Dwight Howard had a key block on White during the big run.

James helped close it out after he checked in with 8:37 remaining. He found Davis for an alley-oop jam that made it 114-101 with 2:04 left.

Davis finished with 15 points and seven rebounds in his first game in his native Chicago since he was acquired in a trade with New Orleans.

Bulls fans: Don’t get your hopes up, Anthony Davis isn’t coming home next summer

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Anthony Davis is going to come to Chicago… as an All-Star in February.

Beyond that, it’s not happening, Davis is not coming home as a free agent next summer. There’s a better chance of Coldplay’s new album not being basic (and you know it will be).

However, hope does not die.

Davis and the Lakers are in Chicago to take on the Bulls Tuesday night, and a fan at an event asked Davis about coming home to play for the Bulls. Here is the quote everyone is going to blow out of proportion, courtesy NBC Sports Chicago.

“I mean, I am a free agent next year … but we will see.”

Now, watch his response in context, where essentially the crowd laughs and knows Davis is just a good sport.

Let’s put all the cards on the table: No source I have spoken to throughout the league thinks Anthony Davis is leaving the Lakers next summer. No other credible report that Davis is going to test the free-agent market is out there. After all Davis and his agent Rich Paul did to get him to his preferred destination next to LeBron James in Los Angeles, there is no logic to Davis bolting the nation’s second-largest market and a contending team for another home. 

As noted at NBC Sports Chicago, the Bulls would have a lot of work to do to clear out the cap space to sign Davis (Otto Porter opts out and a few other moves), but for Davis the Bulls would make it happen.

There’s just no point. He’s not coming. Except to play in the All-Star Game.