For the second straight game in Las Vegas, the Minnesota Timberwolves faced a team with lots of NBA playing experience compared to the vast majority of players at Summer League. First Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris on Friday, now Delon Wright and Norman Powell on Sunday. Powell's 29 points, including two decisive threes with under three minutes left, dropped the Summer Wolves to their second straight loss, 82-80.
This game was another interesting challenge for Wolves rookie Kris Dunn, who was tasked with chasing Powell around for the majority of the game. Dunn played most of the game functioning as the Wolves' 2 next to Tyus Jones, and after early struggles, flourished again to lead the Wolves with 21. Dunn is not intimidated by anyone, and he's strong enough to get away with it. After getting rejected early by Jakob Poeltl, Dunn went right back at him, finishing a layup through heavy contact and drawing the foul.
Dunn is at his best on offense when he's attacking the basket and using his strength to draw and finish through contact. "I think because the floor is so spaced, I can create for myself a little more," Dunn said of his best attributes after the game. When he gets the ball in a good position to attack the rim, he's devastating. When he settles for contested jumpers and doesn't create space, he's much less of a threat. Dunn finished the game 9-17, but was 0-4 from beyond the arc and was much less threatening when he chose to shoot.
The way the Wolves continue to use Dunn in this roster setting is interesting. Tyus Jones was typically responsible for bringing the ball up the floor and initiating the offense when the Wolves set up, and even when shots were missed, things ran smoothly. Dunn had trouble several times when he did the same, running into a double team and traveling, dribbling into traffic and not finding any openings. His handle is great; his decision making in what he does with the handle is much more of a question.
However, in transition, Dunn is yet another fearsome tool to add to the Wolves' many weapons running at speed. In both games, the Wolves have noticeably looked to push the pace whenever possible, often running out when a guard gets a defensive rebound or a turnover. "When we're playing at our best is when we're playing up tempo," Jones said after the game, and this should hold true in the regular season as well. LaVine, Wiggins, Towns, and now Dunn: all immense weapons attacking at high speed.
Jones himself had another great outing, with 18 points, three rebounds and four assists. Playing with Dunn might help mask some of his weaknesses on the defensive end, and he continues to improve there individually as well. "Gotta be better on the defensive end, still gotta focus on that," Jones said. Jones and Dunn have already built some impressive chemistry, and one wonders whether or not their use together could continue into the regular season.
While the Wolves have not managed to win a game in Las Vegas, their NBA talents have impressed in both games, even through some of their weaker points. Dunn's attitude and fearlessness combined with his athletic ability have so much potential to be turned into a real threat, and he can only improve from here.
Highlight of the Game
An impressive rebound and finish from Dunn through lots of contact.
Kris Dunn having himself another game (via @NBASummerLeague) https://t.co/qZzwLDwsfx— SI NBA (@si_nba) July 10, 2016