Providence PG Kris Dunn to return for junior season

Kris Dunn will play at Providence again next season. (USATSI)
Kris Dunn will play at Providence again next season. (USATSI)

Providence point guard Kris Dunn will return to Providence for his junior season, the school announced on Friday afternoon.

“I am excited about next season,” Dunn said. “I have seen this program accomplish a lot over the last three seasons and I would like to be part of some more success. I really enjoy being around my teammates, coaches and all the friends and family I have in Friartown. Lastly, I am looking forward to continuing my growth, improving as a basketball player and earning my diploma.”

Earlier this week, Yahoo! Sports had written that Dunn would be returning to Providence for his fourth year. However, Providence quickly shot that down, saying that a decision regarding his future had not yet been made.

Dunn was the No. 10 player on my NBA Draft board, and is the highest-rated player to decide to return to college for the 2015-16 season. Currently, Dunn’s stock among NBA people was more in the late lottery to early 20s range. However, given his athleticism, length and general skill level, it seems likely he would have moved up draft boards throughout the postseason, pre-draft process.

The 21-year-old guard averaged 15.6 points, 7.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds last year, the only player nationally to put up such gaudy statistics across the board. Advanced statistics also loved him, as his 50 percent assist rate was the third-highest in college basketball over the last decade. His offensive numbers weren’t the only aspect of his game that impressed though, as he was also named Big East co-defensive player of the year this past season, with a 4.9 percent steal rate that was fifth nationally.

Going into 2015-16, Dunn should be on every analyst’s preseason All-American first team and a top contender for preseason national player of the year. He’ll be poised to lead Providence back to a third NCAA Tournament appearance in a row for the first time since 1972-74.

However, there are some risk factors for Dunn to be concerned about regarding his draft stock for next season. First and foremost, he has had injury problems with his right shoulder before, as he was forced into two season-ending surgeries on it in the past three seasons. Another injury would likely raise some red flags among professional front offices.

Second, his age will become a factor that teams get concerned about. He’ll turn 22 before draft day next season, and no player has been drafted in the top-10 after turning 22 since Jimmer Fredette in 2011. In fact, seven players have been drafted in the top-10 after turning 22 in the past decade, and only one of them — Joakim Noah — can be considered a successful pick. Others, such as Wesley Johnson, Ekpe Udoh, Hasheem Thabeet and Shelden Williams, have been quite unsuccessful following their selections. So there’s a chance that Dunn won’t be able to raise his draft stock much from where it is now next season, and will be missing out on a year of getting paid in the process.

Still, that won’t stop me from placing Dunn in the top-seven (at the very least) of my initial 2016 NBA Draft rankings after the 2015 NBA Draft. His situation is a bit different than most due to the injuries. Also, his athleticism sets him apart from most of the other older picks that have failed, and the 2016 draft is a bit weaker at the top than past ones. I don’t think it’s out of the question to see him go top-five next season, in spite of the risk factors I assessed above. He’s going to need to take another leap forward though to convince NBA people he still has upside.

The places scouts will look for progress next year are in his decision-making and his jump shot. Dunn led the NCAA in turnovers this past season, so scouts will want to see a reduction in wasted possessions. Also, he only shot 38 percent from outside of 15 feet last season, meaning it would be nice to see him continue to get better there. If he can improve in those two specific places, his fourth season in Providence will likely be considered a success and it should assuage some fears from scouts regarding his stock.

Dunn is taking a risk and betting on himself here, given that he would have at least been a first-round pick in 2015 with a chance to go in the lottery. Hopefully it works out for him and the best is still yet to come from his play.

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