Please trade Rubio and make room for Kris Dunn…
by Paris Felder
The state of the NBA draft over the last decade or so has severely shifted from drafting players for what they can do now to drafting for what someone can offer in the future. The “three year projects” have become the hot item for teams at the bottom of the standings. The players this term usually applies to is the 19-year-old one-and-done. Only the top tier teams would be able to afford waiting for a player to turn 26 or 27 before he reaches the potential he was drafted for, and for contract purposes and with the free flowing state of the NBA right now it is still always a risk. I think it’s safe to say that four-year college players generally have a higher maturity when entering the league. There are obviously numerous factors that go into your maturity.
While researching the Minnesota Timberwolves fifth overall pick, Kris Dunn of Providence, I stumbled upon a story describing him and his brothers struggles while growing up. I highly recommend reading the article below.
“For five months the brothers told no one, fearing possible separation in foster care. They stopped going to school, ignoring all knocks on the door. They sold their Air Jordan sneakers and Sean John jeans at a discount. John used trick dice to win games of craps and 7–11 in a nearby park. Kris played older boys one-on-one at a basketball court for $20, even when he had no money of his own to back up the bet. At night he fought teenage drug dealers and shook them down for cash.
“It was literally hell,” Kris says of this period. “There probably wasn’t one day we smiled.”
Certain things happen in everyone’s life that accelerates their not just their readiness for the NBA but for everything life as an adult offers (good or bad) and Kris Dunn has certainly had a few of those moments, enticing me to believe he is mentally and emotionally ready for the next level.
Let’s Try & Look into the Future
The 2016 draft class has been highly anticipated since the beginning of last year’s college basketball season headlining Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram for good reason. The two wings have been compared to both LeBron James and Kevin Durant and these comparisons rarely mean anything but they are always fun to try and do. But with the best player’s names in the world being thrown around it is really easy to overlook everyone else in the draft.
I hate to project too far into the future but hypothetically if health and team situations cooperate, Simmons and Ingram will always be compared to each other. There are times when these comparisons bolster both players to reach their potentials (LeBron and Melo) but more times than not, one player will emerge as one dips off. Dunn might not have to worry about this specific stigma being the only point guard drafted in the lottery.
The other two guards drafted in the top ten were Buddy Hield(6) and Jamaal Murray(7). Both players are probably considered closer to a combo guard than a pure point guard but the match-up between these three will be interesting. Reminiscent of the 2008 draft with Derrick Rose, OJ Mayo and Russell Westbrook and we can clearly see the way each career has varied since the draft.
What’s He Got Goin’ For Himself?
For the majority of ball dominant rookies being asked to do more than you’re ready for in your first year, aside from not given an opportunity at all, is probably the worst thing that can happen. Most rookies, if given the choice would probably elect to start rather than come off of the bench in their first year but sometimes that isn’t the best way to grow as a player.
There are a few factors that go into having a successful rookie season, for starters, your own personal progression throughout the year. Rookie seasons are proverbial roller-coaster for most. The majority hit the “Rookie Wall” right around game 30(when the March Madness ends) and how you deal with those ups and downs may very well shape your first campaign.
Next, your teammates. Due to a rewards system of giving the worst team in the NBA the best chance at getting the first pick in the upcoming draft, with the exception of certain teams trading for picks throughout the year, an overwhelming majority of the time the top rookies are going to the worst teams with the worst players therefore attributing to the look of someone’s rookie year because let’s face it… There’s never been a rookie that has been able to lead his team to be a legitimate contender (Jordan’s Bulls were 38–44, LeBron’s Cavs were 35–47). Dunn is pretty fortunate in this aspect.
After that you have the coaching aspect. Who a player gets coached by may be the most important ingredient to a successful start to one’s career. Kris Dunn is very fortunate with the coach he has been drafted into. Tom Thibodeau’s coaching career doesn’t need any explaining but I am going to do it anyways. After assistant coaching experience in Minnesota, Seattle, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Houston and a championship with Boston he was hired as the head coach of Chicago in 2010. In the same season Thibodeau won coach of the year he also tied the rookie head coach record for wins with 62 and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Later he became the fastest coach to win 100 games and played a crucial part in the development of players such as Derrick Rose, Jokiem Noah and Jimmy Butler. On top of all of this he has been an assistant for the USA Olympic team since 2013 and widely considered one of the best defensive minds in the game of basketball. With a surprising parting of ways with Chicago after a 255–139 record in five seasons, Thibs is ready to get back on the sidelines, only this time he has nothing to prove. He is just there to win and this is perfect for Dunn being the versatile two-way combo guard that he is.
What Have You Done for Me Lately?
In two Summer League games Kris Dunn averaged an impressive 24 PPG on 54% from the field with 7 rebounds and 3 assists per game. In his debut against Jamaal Murray he logged in a convincing 27 points and 5 rebounds with numerous clutch plays to seal the win. Driving the ball to the rim fearlessly, limiting turnovers and hitting timely outside shots Dunn definitely passed the eye test for me during his Summer League play.
I’m a Fan of Rubio… I Promise
For the majority of rookies, when they enter the league there is usually a veteran ahead of them in their respective positions causing the younger player to persevere through tough times of minimal playing time or a diminished role from college. With Ricky Rubio entering his seventh season with Minnesota I am afraid they will have this same dilemma.
I would recommend the Timberwolves skip this process with their new NBA ready guard as quickly as possible. How would the Wolves accomplish this you might ask… TRADE RICKY RUBIO ALREADY! Moving Rubio would free up the 28+ minutes a game for Dunn to shake off the ups and downs of being a rookie sooner rather than later. They would be able to implement a true sense of tradition while also moving forward into the future without keeping disposable veterans on the team that are still trying to prove their worth in the NBA (sorry Ricky). Allowing Dunn to not only develop on his own but grow with the talents of Wiggins and Towns together will be vital to their ceiling of success in the future.
In 2009 the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted three point guards in the first round (Rubio, Johnny Flynn and Ty Lawson). A year after the emergence of Kevin Love I am assuming the thinking was to find a Stockton for their Malone due to the up tempo, pass first play styles of all three of their picks. In 2014, the selection of Zach Lavine seemed to be an attempt to break this trend by drafting for, you guessed it, potential. A 6’4’’ combo guard with unmeasurable athleticism and a flair that even the most fundamental basketball eye can appreciate was now thrown into the mix for the starting point guard job. While Lavine possesses tons of raw guard talents such as his ball handling, shooting and passing abilities he lacks the finer nuances like controlling the pace of the game, being an extension of the coach and quite frankly, confidence. Dunn has shown to have all of these traits. Along with my previous suggestion of bumping Rubio out I would recommend shifting Lavines focus to his off-guard skills rather than his primary ball handler skills and alleviating all of the pressures that comes with running a team. A lineup of Dunn, Lavine, Wiggins, Deing and Towns from the start of the season would probably be very turnover prone and lack established leadership but let’s be honest, nobody other than the Cavs and Warriors would be able to go up and down with them all game. I’m aware there are way more components to a team than how their starting line-up looks on paper but man would these Wolves be scary.
Dunn reminds me a lot of Chris Paul when he entered the league out of Wake Forest. Less physically and more what he can contribute to his team emotionally and strategically. The term “coach on the floor” is thrown around a bunch when describing point guards but Thibodeau will be able to truly feel confident that Dunn would do as he would.
And if we want to go into measurables, Dunn’s 6’3”, 210 lbs. frame is a little more imposing than the slender Chris Paul was in his rookie year.
Controlling the pace of the game is one of the most important factors to me in finding a championship caliber point guard. Knowing when to push the break or when to slow it down and run a set decides a lot throughout the course of a game. Even things as simple as sensing if Towns or Wiggins are heating up and feeding them the ball is a legitimate skill and the better your teammates are the easier it would be to recognize and execute these things.
Of course being an unselfish leader is needed if you are looking for a championship point guard. If you pay close attention to Steph Curry when Klay Thompson goes on one of his personal runs you will see a beautiful thing. Not only is Curry’s first priority to get Thompson the ball but he genuinely loves doing it and I feel Dunn shares some of these similar qualities.
As a lot of people might have, I had to look twice at the name Kris Dunn at the fifth pick. But after reading and watching about this kid I can’t help but be excited. Not only would Dunn thrive on just about any other team but this Minnesota roster and coaching staff seems really conducive for a two way point guard to grow.
In a rookie class with Simmons and Ingram who will be handed the steering wheel to their teams will both produce impressive stats next season. But if we want to try and measure which rookie offers the most value to their team next year and looking into the future, watch out for Minnesota’s Kris Dunn.