Kris Dunn was fantastic on Tuesday as the Jazz beat the top-seeded Thunder 124-117. In 27 minutes of game time, Dunn put up 8 points, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks as he was tasked with guarding Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one of the most dynamic guards in the NBA. In his time on the floor, he was a game-best +18 in box +/-. His defense was outstanding (7 combined steals and blocks are incredible no matter who you're talking about), his scoring was timely, and his positive impact on the Jazz was undeniable.
But Kris Dunn's career wasn't always so positive. For a long time, Dunn's future as an NBA point guard was in question. He entered the league as the 5th overall pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2016. Coming off his excellent senior year with the Providence Friars, many teams loved the obvious potential he showed to be a dynamic and athletic point guard in the NBA.
"It takes little more than a few seconds of watching Dunn play before you realize why he has a bright future in the NBA. Dunn has an exceptional physical profile for a point guard in today's NBA, standing 6'4" in shoes, with a terrific frame, a long 6'9" wingspan, and elite quickness and leaping ability that place him in rarefied air by even NBA standards."- DraftExpress
Unfortunately, Dunn underwhelmed in his rookie season. He averaged inefficient shooting numbers in his limited minutes, but his defense was still promising as he averaged 1 steal and 0.5 blocks per game. Despite any promise he still showed, Minnesota had lost faith in Dunn and packaged him with Zach Lavine and a 1st round pick in a deal for Chicago's Jimmy Butler.
Things picked up quickly for Dunn in Chicago. He averaged 13 points per game on a higher shooting percentage and grabbed 2 steals per game in his first year as a Bull. He was slightly prone to turning the ball over but made up for that with his 6 assists per game. Are these world-beating numbers? No, probably not when compared to his pre-draft expectations. But these are solid stats that suggest to me that Kris has the potential to be an above-average point guard as he develops.
Unfortunately, during his third year in Chicago, his production began to drop. The bulls had lost faith in him, and let him go in free agency. For the next few years, Dunn bounced around the NBA, signing 10-day contracts and playing in G-League games. Dunn's decline didn't sit right with me. I watched him play at Providence and I saw him play well for the Bulls. How could the entire NBA collectively lose interest all at once?
Last year, seemingly out of nowhere, the tanking Jazz decided to give Dunn a shot with a 10-day contract. If your team is trying to lose, what's the harm in trying him out? Utah stumbled across another hidden gem. He was great in his first 10 days and in his second. He was great enough that Utah had seen enough to sign him on long-term.
Dunn has been a fantastic addition to the Jazz. He and Sexton have combined to be a fearsome defensive duo in the backcourt. He doesn't need to have the ball to make an impact. When he's on the bench, he is always on his feet to cheer for his teammates. A beloved teammate and reliable option, Dunn has shown that he belongs, and Utah has been the perfect home. Performances like Tuesday's against OKC are a perfect example of what he brings to this team. After years of uncertainty, Kris Dunn has finally found a home. I think this quote from his preseason interview perfectly encapsulates his feelings:
"I'm forever grateful for the Utah Jazz. Give me that opportunity since last year with the 10 days, and Will and the staff, even my teammates just allow me to [...] just kinda play my game and get comfortable. Everybody welcomed me with open arms so I'm definitely grateful."- Kris Dunn