Pushing the Point Guard


Kris Dunn has almost three seasons of NBA basketball under his belt. He has had some success in his short career, he’s also had more than his fair share of failure, and he seems to have had a lifetime’s worth of injuries. This season has not been going well for the Bulls most recent “Point Guard of the Future.” Dunn has struggled under new head coach Jim Boylen, and has yet to gel with his fellow “core” teammates, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine. His play has been so upsetting this season that fans are calling for his replacement, and the Front Office has stopped naming him as a part of the Bulls “core” during their interviews.

If there is one thing this season has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s that the Bulls need another point guard. Not because Kris Dunn is bad or a lost cause, but because Cameron Payne was bad and a lost cause. They need another point guard because Ryan Arcidiacono, as scrappy and smart of a basketball player as he is, is bound by the physical limitations God has blessed him with. Arcidiacono is a solid spot starter and backup point guard on a bad basketball team (i.e. The Bulls), but he would only be a third string, back of the rotation, “Did Not Play-Coaches Decision” kind of player on a good team (i.e. The Milwaukee Bucks). This Bulls team needs a competent point guard.

Is it still possible for Kris Dunn to be the “core” point guard for the Bulls? I think it is, but it’s going to take a lot of work on his part. He needs to become a greater perimeter threat. He has to shoot, and hit, more three pointers. He also has to be a better distributor. His assist numbers are trending up this season (it’s hard to tell because of how much time he’s missed due to injury), but he still has trouble getting the ball to the right teammate at the right time for them to score or make a play.

I feel like Dunn played better under Fred Hoiberg than he does under Jim Boylen. It was on Hoiberg’s watch that Dunn was able to improve in his second season as a pro, and emerge as the unquestioned starting point guard for the Bulls this season. Since the dismissal of Hoiberg, Dunn’s improvement has stagnated. Maybe he has reached his ceiling. Maybe he has wrung every last drop of basketball talent from his body. I doubt it. It’s more likely that several major changes have brought about this stagnation, and Dunn has certainly had a plethora of changes to adjust to this season.

I’ve already mentioned the coaching change Dunn (and the rest of the Bulls) has experienced. There is nothing quite as jarring as losing a trusted mentor and having them replaced by someone with a very different approach and personality than what you’ve flourished under. It’s also tough to appreciate the organization you work for after someone in that organization has gone to the media and questioned your work ethic. You’ll remember those rumors started circulating right around the draft and start of free agency last year. I can’t imagine how Kris Dunn coped with that BS last summer. Taking his personal life into account, Dunn became a father for the first time at the start of the regular season. You might remember he missed a couple of games for paternity leave. It only took a single game after that leave for another freak injury to cut more time from this season and his career. When he returned from injury, he found Zach LaVine had taken over the majority of the point guard duties and had improved as a lead ball handler and distributor.

Throughout the turmoil of these changes, Kris Dunn has seen his roll on this Bulls team diminish, the trust he had earned last season with players, coaches, and fans, erode, and his stock with the Front Office plummet. It must be awful to see everything you’ve worked so hard for sliding away, even as the stakes rise for you and your new family. With that in mind, it must have been a gigantic kick in the gut when the rumors surfaced around the trade deadline that the Front Office was looking to bring in a veteran point guard to “push” Kris Dunn’s development.

Kris Dunn doesn’t need to be pushed when it comes to basketball. Kris Dunn knows full well that basketball is his life. He grew up in such extreme poverty that, as a child, he and his brother had to hustle grown-ass men out of their money in streetball pickup games in order to feed themselves. Extra pressure probably isn’t going to make Dunn a better point guard, but some trust and respect from his coaches and Front Office might.

Don’t get me wrong. The Bulls absolutely need to find another point guard, just not necessarily to “push” Kris Dunn. The 24 year old “Point Guard of the Future” still has another full season on his contract before he becomes a restricted free agent in the summer of 2020. There is no reason why we won’t see him raise the level of his play next season if he receives the proper attention and instruction.

The Bulls love to play pseudo-psychological games with their players. Whether it’s the way they talk about players in press conferences, or embarrassing the entire starting line up by benching them en route to the worst loss in franchise history, or forcing the team to run suicides because they aren’t tough enough; the Bulls think they know how to motivate and build up players. They don’t. They aren’t psychologists, they’re ex-jocks, talent scouts and executives in sweat suits. They can’t possibly know how to best approach a man like Kris Dunn, someone who has experienced the real, sustained, and devastating trauma of poverty, homelessness, and hunger among other things.

So go ahead, draft or sign another point guard, the roster could certainly use the help, just don’t do it to “push” Kris Dunn. I might just be a blogger, but even I know that if you bring in a point guard to “push” Dunn, you’re only going to succeed in pushing him off the team, and maybe even out of the league.