(First posted at Upside & Motor.)
Kris Dunn led the country in assist percentage last season and was perceived as a late lottery pick in the 2015 draft. He took a risk by returning to Providence for another year of college ball. Most players fail to keep or improve their status the longer they stay in the junior ranks.
But that gamble is now very likely to pay off for Dunn, who currently ranks fourth on Draft Express’s mock draft. He has managed to improve some of the aspects of his skill-set that were considered weaknesses a year ago, aside from proving able to elevate the level of play of those around him – leading Providence to 17 wins in 20 games and a top 20 ranking in the Associated Press poll so far this season.
His age (he will be 22 by the time of the draft) may cause some decision makers to question how much better he is yet to get but Dunn has now become one of the prospects with the highest floors among those that are candidates to be selected in the top 10.
Providence has decent talent on the team, with a couple of other guys that are worth keeping track of long term, but Dunn is the only clear cut NBA prospect at the moment and the team’s successful campaign is mostly driven by his prolificacy.
Ed Cooley runs a nice offense, one that provides Dunn a good opportunity to succeed. Despite being the team’s most talented player, he does not monopolize possession of the ball and is not necessarily relied on to create against a set defense on an every possession-basis. Dunn sometimes doesn’t even bring the ball up the floor and initiate the offense, as Junior Lamomba and Kyron Cartwright are able to do so. He often catches the ball after running his man through one or a couple of screens and the ball has already moved from side-to-side.
Providence also offers Dunn a well-spaced floor. It shoots a healthy amount of three-point shots, though it’s not necessarily prolific at making them at an above average rate. Its big men, Rodney Bullock and Ben Bentil, are both able to roll to the three-point line on the pick-and-pop or spot up from beyond the arc on the weak-side. The only other two players who stand at or above six-foot-seven and get regular playing time are pure outside shooters, and the rest of the rotation is built of guards. As a result, Dunn has plenty of space to get into the lane attacking off the bounce.
As far as level of competition goes, Providence unfortunately hasn’t played any opponent with a perimeter player projected to become the sort of NBA player Dunn is. Even Arizona doesn’t have one this season, despite the fact Alonzo Trier is a Team USA guy with some status to him. Denzel Valentine missed most of the first half due to foul trouble in the game against Michigan State, then did not guard Dunn in the second half, except for a possession here and there.
He had the chance to play Notre Dame and Kentucky last season, going against NBA types like Demetrius Jackson, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton, the Harrison twins, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker. Dunn did not do particularly well in 50 minutes of playing time against these two teams, though it’s worth bringing up that this was early in the season and he was just returning to competitive play after missing the majority of the previous season recovering from undergoing surgery in his shoulder.
Overall, Dunn has averaged a healthy 15 points per 40 minutes on 44.1% shooting and posted 96 assists against 54 turnovers in 485 minutes on 16 appearances against opponents ranked in the AP top 25 (prior to Sunday’s game) over the last four years, according to RealGM.
SIZE & ATHLETIC ABILITY
What’s most appealing about Dunn is the fact that he is a legit primary ball-handler who stands at six-foot-four with a six-foot-nine wingspan and well developed upper-body strength in his 205-pound frame. He is bigger than his matchup at point guard almost every night, while also possessing the agility to stay in front of these smaller players.
His size translates mostly on his ability to maintain his balance through on contact on his way to the basket, as he attacks length with explosiveness to finish at the rim with power thanks to his athleticism – even flashing the ability to dunk in traffic elevating out of two feet. His frame also invites contact, as he’s averaged seven foul shots per 40 minutes this season – according to basketball-reference.
Another way he’s able to explore his size advantage is by taking opposing point guards into the post, either setting position in the low block or the elbow. And Dunn is a legit asset from those areas, not just somebody who is sent there because he is bigger than his competition. He looks comfortable backing opponents down, has flashed a smooth turnaround fade-away jump-shot and can also explore his court vision passing out of these spots when he draws help, as Providence can space the floor properly around his post-ups thanks to everyone’s ability to spot-up outside the arc.
On the other end, Dunn is not a particularly polished defender. He gets on a stance more often than not defending on the ball but can be caught standing flat-footed more than a few times when the opponent isn’t an immediate threat to pull-up from long range and that’s definitely the case on an every possession-basis when he is off the ball.
But Dunn is an impact defender thanks to his size and athletic ability. He does not contain dribble penetration through contact but has lateral agility to keep pace with smaller players in isolation and recovering to them after going under screens (he almost always went under in the games I’ve seen him), then uses his length to contests shots at the rim or deflect passes.
As a weak-side defender, Dunn uses his quickness to closeout to shooters in time for his length to force them to put the ball on the floor. He will at times get there off balance and get beat by his man for a second but has shown he cares enough to use his athleticism to recover. That’s something he’ll need to polish in the pros, though, where his edge in athletic ability won’t exist as much and his opponents will be able to get to the rim before he gets to them.
Dunn is aggressive jumping the passing lanes and his long wingspan helps make these plays takeaways rather than just deflections. He is averaging 3.6 steals per 40 minutes this season. Dunn has also proven tough enough to box out bigger players and has the athleticism to chase the ball off the rim, which makes him an asset to pick up bigs on switches. He is collecting 17.5% of opponents’ misses – an incredible defensive rebounding rate for a point guard.
Dunn’s combination of size and athleticism provides flexibility for the coach of the team that drafts him to consider playing him as an off guard regularly, especially if you try talking yourself into the small improvement he has made in his outside shooting.
But Dunn is a true point guard by nature. He does like to do his fair share of dribbling late in the shot clock and his 29.8% usage rate is considerable but for the most part, the ball does not stick in his hands and he does play a team-oriented style.
Dunn passes ahead in transition, has good court vision identifying even the smallest of openings for his shooters and looks to pass out of dribble penetration when the defense collapses to him – assisting on 46.4% of Providence’s scores when he’s been on the floor, which once again leads the NCAA. Dunn turns the ball over quite a bit (4.4 giveaways per 40 minutes), sometimes trying to draw the help to him an extra second more than he should, but that’s the cost of doing business with such a volume shot creator.
He is not a speedster turning the corner out of the pick-and-roll but can change speeds and has a hesitation move to get by his man, aside from having a nice handle to go side-to-side and snake the pick-and-roll to put his man in jail. Dunn can attack the basket with explosiveness but has also shown the ability to hang in the air around length and nice touch on non-dunk finishes, converting 61.7% of his 94 shots at the basket – according to hoop-math.
He has taken 42% of his shots in the restricted area, after that number was 46% last season. Since Dunn is such a threat to get to the basket, opponents consistently try to shell his path to the rim. They regularly go under on screens and dare him to beat them from the outside. Dunn is not shy to try it and that leads to questionable shot selection at times.
He is a capable shot maker but not a particularly good one at this point of his development, hitting just 34.2% of his 73 two-point jump-shots entering Sunday’s game. Dunn’s mechanics don’t look broken but he has a strong tendency to fade-away on his release, even with plenty of space to elevate off the bounce or on catch-and-shoots.
His accuracy, though more palatable due to the extra point, is about the same from three-point range – 36.8% on 57 attempts this season. And it seems like most of those come on a pet play Providence runs where Dunn gives up the ball, fakes cutting down the lane, pops back to the top of the key coming off a pindown screen and takes the catch-and-shoot in rhythm.
Dunn has developed into more of an outside threat in comparison to last season mostly because he’s become a more willing shooter, though sometimes to a fault. That’s actually a real small improvement because a poor but capable outside shooter is better than someone is not a threat whatsoever. However, Dunn’s so-so foul shooting (68.8% through his college career) raises concern into how much better of a shooter he’ll be able to develop into in the future.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara