Can Kris Dunn still improve even if in a lesser role?

Kris Dunn, after a horrible rookie campaign, has proven to at least be better than that: stuffing the stat sheet to the tune of 13.7 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. Although there’s a lot of room for improvement in terms of efficiency (and 3 games without a free-throw more evidence to that point), a starring role (a Jimmy Butler-esque 37th in the NBA in usage percentage) on a rebuilding team where he can play through mistakes has been the formula for his resurgence from year one to year two.

Would a lesser role stunt that improvement? Over at The Ringer, writer Jonathan Tjarks discussed this possibility.

The question is whether Dunn can be effective if he’s not in a featured role. He doesn’t threaten defenses off the ball. He’s averaging only 3.0 3-point attempts per 36 minutes of playing time, which puts him 55th among the 60 guards who have started at least 20 games this season. If he’s not initiating the offense, the defense doesn’t have to guard him. The Bulls have worked around his poor shooting by building their offense around him. Dunn has to continue improving as a shooter because Chicago may not give him a similar opportunity to dominate the ball next season as much as he has this season.

Zach LaVine will return to action tomorrow, albeit with a minutes restriction. He’ll command a lot of touches and the Bulls will run numerous plays for him on offense. Last season in Minnesota, the two were worth -2.5 points per 100 possessions when they shared the floor together. Tjarks believes that the two players will have more success together this season:

Still, the two former Minnesota guards could be an effective backcourt pairing. Dunn has the defensive chops to guard either backcourt position, so he could take the more difficult assignment on a nightly basis, allowing LaVine, an inconsistent defender at best, to hide off the ball. On the other end of the floor, LaVine is an elite 3-point shooter, so he can create room for Dunn to drive to the rim. However, if Dunn can’t keep the defense honest when LaVine has the ball, the Bulls may end up having to stagger their minutes and pick one to emphasize.

This is good news if the Bulls are banking on the idea that the two can co-exist as core pieces for the franchise moving forward But what if Kris Dunn isn’t actually the Chicago Bulls point guard of the future? Luka Doncic, Collin Sexton, and Trae Young are all backcourt players that could be available when its the Bulls turn to pick.

If the Bulls then give one of these players the keys to the offense, would it render Dunn as an off-ball player limited by ineffective shooting? Tjarks argues that if this happens, the Bulls could move Dunn to the second unit where’d he’d excel as a defense-oriented floor general.

With a litany of game-changing big men also available in the upcoming draft, worrying about the Bulls drafting Dunn’s replacement may be a moot issue. However, Dunn has a ways to go before we can pen him in as the Bulls point guard of the future so the discussion is at least worth having.

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