With the fifth overall pick in the NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves have drafted Kris Dunn, the physical point guard out of Providence.
This pick was nearly moved to the Chicago Bulls in a blockbuster deal involving Jimmy Butler, but the Timberwovles have elected to keep it ... for now. They reportedly turned down an offer of Butler for Dunn and young shooting guard Zach LaVine. That should tell you how much new Timberwolves coach/general manager Tom Thibodeau values Dunn (and perhaps how little he values incumbent starting point guard Ricky Rubio).
It takes only a glance to realize why Dunn is such a sought-after prospect. At 6'4 with a 6'9 wingspan and incredible athleticism, plus true point guard skills, Dunn is the type of player NBA teams salivate over. His first two seasons at Providence were plagued by repeated shoulder injuries, but a breakout junior campaign cemented him as a prospect. Dunn opted to stay one more year, playing the entire season and alleviating concerns about the injuries that had cost him initially. The gamble worked out, vaulting Dunn up draft boards and turning him into a lottery lock.
His athleticism really is the first thing that jumps out about Dunn. He's strong and physically built, using his frame to frustrate opposing ball handlers. He'll block jump shots with his pterodactyl arms and poke away steals as if the other team was dribbling in cement. With the ball in his hand, Dunn can turn the corner off a screen in a blink, dashing to the basket and finishing high above it with a dunk or layup through contact.
Dunn's not a raw physical project, though. In a game against St. John's, you can see defenders constantly go under screens against him out of necessity -- and Dunn rocks back and nails those top-of-the-key jumpers like it's nothing. Dunn's not always that good of a shooter, with his jumper suffering from relative inconsistency, but he shot 37 percent behind the arc his senior year on more than three attempts per game.
Dunn is a natural passer who can create off the dribble or lead an offense, but his propensity for turnovers does hurt. He averaged more than four as a junior, and while it was good to see him cut it to 3.5 turnovers as a senior, it was still the worst number for a first-round projected point guard in this year's draft. Certainly, the NBA isn't going to be any easier on him in that department.
As is common with star offensive players coming out of college, his defense can be lazy at times, not fighting over screens or losing track of his man off the ball. As seemingly easy as it would be to fix this, there are dozens of NBA players who never quite do, or at least spend several years trying to erase bad habits taught from years of being their team's best player who could do no wrong.
Still, the draft is about best-case scenarios, and Dunn's flaws are fixable. Although he is a four-year college player, he doesn't turn 23 until March and his delays in college came directly because of his early injury struggles. There's always the concern that some of Dunn's success came because he was beating up on players younger than him, but Providence's spot in the Big East provided solid competition for him.
Give Dunn a year to correct his most egregious habits and, coupled with his superb physical skills, there's no reason to bet against him. Dunn's spot as the best point guard in the 2016 draft is very well deserved.
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