Kris Dunn knows his rookie season with the Wolves won’t be easy. But for Dunn, nothing ever has been.
Prior to Friday night’s preseason finale against the Charlotte Hornets, the rookie point guard from Providence—selected fifth overall in the draft—had struggled mightily with his shot selection and decision making through six games.
Dunn entered the night shooting 9-46 from the field in 132 minutes. Offensively speaking, he was a disaster in the preseason. And with all of the positive buzz surrounding him, this wasn’t the electric start to his NBA career that most had envisioned. Dunn was selected by both his fellow rookies and league GMs, in two separate surveys done by NBA.com, to bring the third straight rookie of the year trophy back to the North, following the footsteps of franchise pillars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
But in his last preseason game, all of a sudden, there it was; Dunn flashed the talent fans have been waiting to see. He finished with a preseason-high eight points on 3-7 shooting and added six rebounds, four assists, and four steals in almost 26 minutes. His perimeter defense was suffocating at times.
It was an all-around performance that helped the Wolves cruise to a 109-74 win over Charlotte and, significantly, this was the player the Wolves need at backup point guard to realize their playoff dreams. Dunn was effective in all different ways off the bench.
“I think it just has to do with watching a lot of film, working every day,” Dunn said about his performance. “I’ve got good teammates who’ve played in the NBA and who are trying to help me out through the process. It ain’t going to be easy but you just have to keep fighting through the process.”
On the second unit, Dunn and Nemanja Bjelica must lead the way as primary ball-handlers and facilitators. Shabazz Muhammad brings his relentless scoring mentality while Brandon Rush provides elite shooting from the corners, and Cole Aldrich will cover the paint with his excellent rim protection. Together, they must defend competently and Dunn is a major contributor to that.
While the bench has vastly improved from a season ago, their fortunes may ultimately rest on how quickly Dunn can adjust to the NBA. Ending his rough preseason on a high note was a positive development.
Q & A
What’s it like playing with Bjelica?
“It’s very easy,” Dunn says.
“He’s 6’10” and can put the ball on the floor and is a great shooter. He’s like the easiest player to play with on the team. Like I said before in training camp, I think he and B-Rush are the two easiest players to play with. They’re good at spacing. They’re good at putting the ball on the floor and making the right play.”
Do you think things are slowing down for you?
“I really don’t know,” Dunn admitted. “Like I said, I’m just going through the process, trying to improve every day. Hopefully I keep making that improvement each and every game. That’s my main goal right now .... try to affect the game in any way I can.”
How good can this team become defensively?
“Really good. I think coach is really strict on us; making sure we’re in the right spots, the right area, making sure that we come out with a defensive mindset. We’re young, fast, athletic, and I think everybody individually has the chance to be a great defender. I see it in practice. We can be really good defensively if we all put our minds to it.”
“He’s going to be good. He’s going to go through the rookie process,” Kemba Walker said after the game. “It’s always tough being a rookie. It’s a whole different transition. But I’ve seen him play in college, he’s going to be a great player in our league.”
There are going to be a lot of ups and downs for Dunn this season—that’s the way it goes for rookies in the NBA. But his already evident defensive potential is a bright spot, and will hopefully carry him through the tougher times. He will have the opportunity to grow alongside his young teammates, and become part of something special. It will take time, but we should all try to appreciate the process.