76ers Draft: Is Kris Dunn a Fit with Ben Simmons?
We continue our draft series, looking at a couple of players the Sixers could target in Thursday night’s NBA draft.
One player who has come up in conversations of late is Providence point guard Kris Dunn, with reports out of CSN New England that the Sixers are enamored with Dunn. Is he somebody that they should pursue?
Measurements: 6-foot-4.25-inches (in shoes), 205 pounds, 6-foot-9.5-inch wingspan.
Stats: 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.5 steals, 3.5 turnovers per game, shot 44.8 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from three-point range.
Advanced stats: 11.3 Boxscore plus/minus, (5.6 offensive, 5.7 defensive), 4.5 win shares (2.2 offensive, 2.3 defensive), 0.166 win shares/40 minutes, 46.2 percent free throw rate, 54.1 percent true shooting.
(Quick glossary: Boxscore plus/minus is an estimate of the points a player adds to his team per 100 possessions above the league average. Win shares is an estimate on the number of wins a player added to his team. Win shares/40 minutes is win shares for every 40 minutes of play, with the average being ~0.100/40 minutes. Free throw rate is the number of free throw attempts per field goal attempt, and true shooting percentage is an attempt to “fix” field goal percentage, factoring in the additional value of the three-point shot and a player’s ability to get to the free throw line to paint a more accurate picture of a player’s efficiency).
Why should you be interested?
(Note, I wrote an in-depth scouting report on Dunn for DraftExpress a while back. I also covered Kris Dunn’s inspiring childhood story for USA Today. Those are relevant reads as well).
Kris Dunn is one of the best athletes in the draft, and one of the real, legitimate two-way perimeter prospects.
Some may look at Dunn as a late bloomer, as he didn’t really become an impact player until his third season at Providence, but that was mostly because of shoulder injuries during his first two years. He injured his shoulder before his freshman season, eventually returning in December and playing a lesser role than he would have as he got integrated to the team on the fly. He was then poised to have a breakout sophomore campaign, but he injured the same shoulder at the beginning of the season, eventually trying to play four ineffective games before having surgery once again.
Dunn’s physical profile is a great starting point, as his 6’4.25″ height and 9.5″ wingspan give him quite a bit of defensive versatility. To put that in perspective, that wingspan is 3 inches longer than Jamal Murray, who is projected to primarily be a shooting guard at the next level. He combined that size with very good lateral quickness, a consistently high energy level, and great anticipation skills to become a terror on the defensive side of the court. Dunn takes real pride in his defense, and while his awareness off the ball is certainly lacking at times as he hunts out passing lanes a little too enthusiastically, that combination of size, athleticism, and effort is a great foundation to build upon.
Dunn’s athleticism translates into offensive production as well. The most obvious way is in transition, which makes up over a quarter of his possessions used. That athleticism also shows up in his dribble-drive game, as Dunn changes direction and explodes out of breaks with ease, and can split the pick and roll and elevate round the hoop for emphatic finishes. He has good touch around the hoop and has the size, strength, and athleticism to seek out, and finish through, contact. On the season, Dunn shot 63 percent on shots at the rim, despite nearly 40 percent of his attempts not being assisted. Having efficiency that high, while creating so many of his looks by himself, shows his skill in this department.
Dunn’s also a legitimate plus passer, He obviously attracts a crowd when he drives into the paint, and has the size and awareness to pass out of the rotating defense. He shows a real knack for playing the pick and roll game, and recognizes big men cutting to the basket with impressive passes in tight spaces. He’s also not entirely ball dominant, as you’ll see him rack up assists on quick touch passes on the perimeter without even putting the ball on the floor. Again, the mindset you want is there.
Finally, Dunn has made progress in his jump shot. Dunn went from 28.6 percent as a freshman, to 35.1 percent, and finally to 37.2 percent last year. I’ve not entirely bought into that — he’s incredibly, incredibly, streaky, and has some mechanical issues with his shot (fading away) and extra movement that makes it difficult to repeat consistently, and will have to be tweaked — but the results have gotten better over time.
That combination — elite athletic tools, ability to finish at the rim, very good court vision, and shut down defensive potential and versatility — make it pretty obvious why he’s a highly regarded prospect.
Why shouldn’t you be interested?
Unfortunately, Dunn’s deficiencies are as pronounced as his strength. As was mentioned on a recent podcast we did, Dunn is either making a jaw-dropping, spectacular play, or a maddening, crushing mistake. There’s very little in-between.
The turnovers jump out immediately, as Dunn committed 4.2 turnovers per game last year and 3.5 this year, a drop largely attributable to Kyron Cartwright coming in and sharing some of the ball handling responsibilities at Providence. Turning the ball over on darn-near 20 percent of his possessions isn’t going to cut it in the NBA.
Some of those turnovers are certainly due to Providence’s downright horrible floor spacing. Dunn’s teammates shot 29.1 percent from three-point range on the season, and were absolutely one of the worst shooting teams in the country. That lack of spacing forced Dunn into some errors.
But Dunn made more than his own fair share of unforced errors as well. His decision making was just suspect at times, and it’s something he’s always struggled with. He plays the game at a hectic pace, and that catches up with him far too frequently.
Transition is where that hectic pace impacts him the most. In fact, Dunn’s assist-to-turnover ratio in the half court was 2-to-1, not perfect for a point guard but far more manageable than the 1.7-to-1 he had as a whole. One of Dunn’s greatest strength (forcing turnovers and getting out in transition) is also where his struggles come into play. That being said, his improvement in taking care of the ball in the half court is a good sign going forward.
That decision making carries over to his shot selection as well. His midrange game was not good, yet he relied on it quite a bit this past year. Part of that was situational — Providence didn’t have a lot of firepower outside of Dunn and Ben Bentil, and defenses keyed in on taking away his strengths. Still, Dunn willingly settled for too many bad, contested midrange shots early in the shot clock that were unnecessary.
Finally, there’s the jump shot. As I said above, while he’s made progress, the consistency is a very major question mark, and there are some mechanical issues to be resolved. But this is one area where I think people are going to make too much of his age. Yeah, Dunn just recently turned 22, but Dunn’s first two seasons were slowed because of shoulder injuries, injuries which not only impacted how much he could play, and practice, during the first two years of his career at Providence, but also an injury that directly impacts the mechanics of his shot. The fact that he made legitimate progress in the first two years since returning full-time from those injuries is a positive indicator.
Fit with the Sixers
This is the multi-million dollar question.
On the one hand, Dunn’s streaky outside shot doesn’t create the kind of space for his teammates you would want to pair next to Ben Simmons. With Simmons commanding the ball as much as you expect he will, you really want a knock-down shooter next to him to open up the floor. That’s not Kris Dunn, at least at this point in his career.
The question becomes twofold. First, can Dunn continue to show progress in making his jump shot more consistent over the years. Second, can Dunn provide enough outside of his shooting to make up for that weakness.
I do think Dunn’s defense, and his ability to force turnovers (2.7 steals per game in 2014-15 and 2.5 per game in 2015-16) would be great to pair with Simmons in the open court. I also think Dunn’s ability to defend both the point guard and shooting guard spots, along with Simmons’ ability to switch, would give Brett Brown a ton of flexibility. On that side of the court, I think it’s very intriguing.
Also, and I think this is worth pointing out since the Sixers have a second potential stud on the roster already, I think Dunn’s pick and roll game and advanced ability to find big men diving to the hoop could be an incredible pairing with Joel Embiid, and having a guy like Embiid (and Nerlens Noel) who can alter shots at the rim could allow Dunn to provide even more pressure at the point of attack defensively.
Because of Dunn’s injury history, I don’t view him as a 22-year-old who is done (dunn?) progressing. I think those two years delayed the typical development curve. I also don’t see him as a late-bloomer, something which Kevin Pelton talked about when he joined me for a podcast, as late-bloomers don’t typically fare well in the NBA. Dunn, on the other hand, was an elite (top-20 RSCI) prospect heading into college whose career was stalled because of injury problems.
With Dunn’s physical profile, defensive potential, and incredible court vision, I have him rated as a top-4 prospect in this draft. While I’m not one to, say, go out and target a point guard specifically, he’s also the kind of talent that I’m willing to take a gamble on. If the Sixers do acquire a second top-5 pick, he’s worth a look, even if there are legitimate fit concerns in the half court.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.