Kris Dunn’s NBA Draft stock holds steady during up and down season

Kris Dunn had a choice to make at the end of last season. He could go pro, and be a top-15 or so pick in the 2015 NBA draft, or stay at Providence, let it ride, and see if he could parlay that season into better draft stock due to either the weakness of the 2016 draft or his own improvement.

On Tuesday morning, CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein reported the official decision on what has been relatively clear throughout the entire 2015-16 season: Dunn will turn pro and forego his final year of eligibility to enter the 2016 draft. And overall, I’d say it was mission accomplished for Dunn. He’s improved his game marginally through the course of the 2016 season, and looks poised to be a top-10 pick when the draft comes around in June.

Unlike many around him during what’s been an unusual season, his stock largely held steady the whole way. He entered the season as the No. 5 player on CBS Sports’ preseason NBA Draft big board, and he’ll exit it at No. 6. Overall, that means he did everything that was expected of him coming into the season.

Let’s just give a quick discussion of Dunn’s game, then discuss his draft prospects in June.

First and foremost, Dunn has near-elite size and athleticism for the point guard position. Standing at 6-foot-4 with a 6-9 wingspan (per DraftExpress measurement database), his physical profile is similar to that of John Wall. Athletically, he’s not quite in the Wall or Russell Westbrook tier, but he’s just in the next level down. He possesses a terrific first step, as well as the ability to both play laterally and get downhill quickly.

Athleticism is the name of the game for Dunn on both ends of the floor. Offensively, that first step allows him to blow by just about anyone on the college level. Once he gets into the lane, his vision is superb as he’s really good at finding angles for little dump-offs as well as kick-outs for 3s. I wouldn’t necessarily pay attention to Dunn’s assist numbers falling in his junior season. Providence had one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country around Dunn, and even an average group (from the team’s 32 percent rate up to the national average of 35 percent) would have led to a steadying of those numbers.

The biggest improvement that I saw Dunn make in 2016 versus last year was in his ball-handling ability. As a sophomore, Dunn’s handle could get relatively loose as he tried to acrobatically prance through the defense. As a junior though, the handle is tigher, and he’s added a few little hesitation moves due to some work with God Shammgod last offseason. He also added a bit of a post-game over smaller defenders, and improved a bit as a jump shooter, but his ability to handle the ball seems to be the most translatable improvement on one of his biggest weaknesses coming into the year.

That weakness is turnovers. Dunn can get a bit turnover-prone from time-to-time. He improved his turnover rate from 22.6 to 18.8 this season at Providence largely on the back of that improved handle. But it was only marginal. There are still times where he makes some pretty dumbfounding decisions. A lot of the time it was due to him trying to create a bit too much on a Providence team that needed him to, but it’s certainly something he’ll need to clean up going forward.

Dunn also improved as a scorer in 2016. He finished better around the rim (63 percent versus 55 percent, per ShotAnalytics), and also knocked down a higher rate of his 3-point attempts — most of which come above the break. He was a bit worse from the midrange this year than his strong year in 2015 though. That could be due in part to Providence’s lack of spacing from 3-point shooters — teams pack inside the arc, leading to more contested midrange shots off the dribble — but it’s something worth watching going forward. Also, his release can get a bit long from time to time, which allows players to do a better job of contesting. This is yet another place where he saw marginal growth in 2016 and will need to continue improving.

Kris Dunn made the necessary improvements to keep his draft stock steady.(USATSI)
Kris Dunn made the necessary improvements to keep his draft stock steady. (USATSI)

While his offensive game is quite strong but still a bit of a mixed bag occasionally, his defense never really wavers. It’s there that his athleticism and physical profile plays up, as Dunn has a terrific motor on that end that brought him the Big East’s defensive player of the year award for the second straight season.

He’s a terror in passing lanes due to his length, throwing up the nation’s seventh-best steal rate at 4.3. Dunn’s also strong in man-to-man coverage on-ball against opposing point guards, although he got to do that a bit less often due to Providence playing more zone in 2016.He can get a bit too handsy at times and get into foul trouble — something that played out in his final game against North Carolina — but overall there’s not much to be worried about from an NBA perspective on this end. His upside is genuinely that of an NBA All-Defensive team member.

The name of the game this season for Dunn was just to continue growing as a player while not getting injured. Overall, he accomplished both of those things. Nothing in the way of long-term injuries, and his game improved marginally on the offensive end in the ways it needed to. It’s why his stock didn’t necessarily explode through the roof, and it’s why it never fell. This was a solid season for Dunn.

One place where Dunn could be hindered on draft night though simply has to do with the teams who will be in the top half of the lottery. Simply put, his market could be a bit limited based on where teams currently stand. Phoenix has both Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight under long-term contracts, which would make Dunn redundant. Boston has about 100 guards. Minnesota has Ricky Rubio — a player who reportedly could be shopped in the summer, but ultimately also makes for a tough fit with Dunn if he’s kept. Denver has Emmanuel Mudiay. Orlando has Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo.

To an extent, that limits Dunn’s potential landing places before the lottery shakes out. There are some things to look for though. First, Philadelphia getting a pick in the No. 4 or 5 range — either due to getting the Lakers’ pick or due to them falling out of the top-three — would be good news for Dunn. Sacramento or New Orleans either staying steady around where they are (around Nos. 6 to 8) or moving up would be good for Dunn, as both could reasonably be in the market for a point guard. Finally, Minnesota making a decision to move Rubio would put them in prime position for the 6-4 Providence guard.

Overall, I’d peg Dunn’s stock somewhere between No. 3 and No. 10. It’s a definite rise from last year, which means Dunn ultimately won’t have any reason to look back on his decision with regret. How big of a rise will depend on how things shake out during the rest of the NBA season.

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