Boston Celtics: What the Cs can expect out of Kris Dunn

Apr 26, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Kris Dunn (32) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 26, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Kris Dunn (32) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

As of right now, the Boston Celtics will be acquiring Kris Dunn, Bruno Fernando, and a second-round pick from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Tristan Thompson, who is reportedly being rerouted to Sacramento.

With Robert Williams in for another leap and Al Horford acquired earlier in the summer, the need for Thompson was too little to be worth his contract.

Boston’s goal was to shed the money they owed him while bringing back some minor but cheaper contributors.

Bruno Fernando is likely to remain a project on the bench for the Boston Celtics as they already have three bigs ahead of him, and the second-round pick won’t convey until 2023, which leaves Kris Dunn as the sole contributor from this deal.

Taking a look at his 2020-21 numbers and coming away with the thought that he can be a contributor would be foolish, but some context can be applied to his most recent season to ease any anxiety about calling him a capable role player.

Injuries plagued Dunn after being acquired by the Atlanta Hawks last summer, so this article will reference his numbers from 2019-20 with the Chicago Bulls, the last time he was healthy.

This article will tell you all about Dunn on both sides of the ball and what you can expect from him this upcoming season:

The good and the bad of Kris Dunn’s offense

Many of you may remember the infamous 2016 draft night when most Boston Celtics fans rioted at the sight of Jaylen Brown wearing a Cs hat, cursing that they should have taken Kris Dunn instead.

Well, those curses have been answered, but if I were to tell someone what I’m about to say to you now on that very same draft night, they’d look at me like I had five heads.

Since entering the NBA, Kris Dunn has not turned out to be the prospect many thought he would be due, in part, to his offensive shortcomings.

The 6-3 guard has yet to develop a sufficient amount of counters, and his jump shot has been all but reduced to dust. Dunn’s handle is rather lackluster for a guard his size, which leads to some ill-advised turnovers and weak drives to the rim.

He was blocked 20 times and missed many bunnies due to poor touch, timing, and awareness.

These weaknesses only worsened Dunn’s ability to draw fouls, therefore withholding any chance of him becoming an elite scorer in the NBA.

As bad as Dunn may seem as a scorer, he can provide some impact in that realm, but the expectations for his impact should be kept as low as possible.

Although Dunn struggled to protect the ball on his drives, his aggression and sheer frame made him a solid threat around the rim. Even at his stature (6-3, 205 pounds) Dunn managed to shoot 64 percent at the rim on substantial volume in 2019-20.

The point guard can be a real threat going downhill and his elite defense, which I’ll get into later, sparked many accessible scoring opportunities for him.

His pacing and handle are rather average in the half-court, but he can maneuver through relatively straightforward lanes when he’s called upon to do so. This leads me to my next point: Dunn understands his scoring strengths and weaknesses.

The majority of his shots came from 0-3 feet or 3-point range, indicating Ime Udoka won’t have to get on him for trying to play outside of his role.

There’s not much Dunn can do to hurt the Boston Celtics as a passer, given how frail they are in that department. In 2019-20 Dunn averaged 3.4 assists in 25 minutes off the bench, an impressive mark and one the Cs should hope he can recreate in green.

Dunn excelled as an extra passer, pick and roll or pick and pop ball handler, and drive and kick passer.

He makes quick decisions and tends to make the most simple read available, and he can hit guys off the dribble or go downhill.

The dilemma with Dunn’s passing is it’s not anything for opposing defenses to shiver over. His vision, touch, and overall skill in that realm are very average, and he’s not going to break down defensive lines.

He can’t exploit higher-level coverages and can’t be relied on as a primary decision-maker. So, no leading bench units and no triple-doubles for Dunn this coming season.

Overall, it would be unwise to expect a lot from Dunn offensively, especially after coming off a season in which he played four games.

The Boston Celtics would be best suited using Dunn as a cutter and driver off of kick-outs.

He should not be relied upon to take and make spot-ups, nor should he be relied on to create his offense.

Dunn should do just fine as a third-string ball-handler, only making decisions once the defense has already begun to shift or when put in pick and roll. He’ll provide solid rim pressure and good on-ball decision-making; that’s it, though.

The good and bad of Kris Dunn’s defense

As detailed as I was about Kris Dunn’s offense, he was ultimately brought in for his production on the other side of the ball.

If he can stay healthy with the Boston Celtics, the hope is the sixth-year veteran can recreate his fantastic 2019-20 defensive season off the bench.

During this campaign, Dunn averaged two steals per game in 25 minutes per game and led the league in D-RAPTOR and D-LEBRON amongst guards. His impact was insane given how low his minute count was compared to the league’s other elite guard defenders, and the Cs should hope he can revert to that.

Many things made Dunn so dominant on the defensive end, but the biggest was by far his hands.

Dunn had arguably the most active hands in the league, tallying steals and deflections like there’s no tomorrow.

He pried the ball from careless ball handlers and was very good at digging on bigs looking to punish the Bulls in the post. Dunn’s reflexes and motor allowed him to keep him with smaller guards, and his rigid frame allowed him to stick with bigger wings, making him one of the most versatile guard defenders the league has to offer.

The Boston Celtics can put Dunn’s defensive abilities to good use by sticking him at the nail to help or putting him on the opposing team’s best ball handler to give Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown a rest.

His point of attack defense will change the game for Al Horford and Robert Williams, allowing them to sit deeper and prioritize protecting the rim instead of switching so often.

The bad news for Dunn on defense is that recreating his 2019-20 production is a rather large hypothetical.

Given how long he was out for, there’s a chance Dunn doesn’t come back the same way he left Chicago, which means all these strengths may evaporate before the C’s eyes.

Another problem with his injuries is they may cause his subtle weaknesses to flare up. Dunn has struggled with foul trouble, and he’s already a poor athlete.

If his athleticism derails anymore, he may begin to foul more than he can sustain to stay on the floor. I’m confident Dunn can come back strong, but be sure to temper your expectations for his defensive prowess.

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