Dunn rising as talks of Rubio trade persist
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kris Dunn's second chance to start went far better than the first. Dunn was just two games into his rookie season when he was thrust into the starting lineup after Ricky Rubio went down with a sprained elbow. Dunn started five game...
MINNEAPOLIS - Kris Dunn's second chance to start went far better than the first.
Dunn was just two games into his rookie season when he was thrust into the starting lineup after Ricky Rubio went down with a sprained elbow.
Dunn started five games in Rubio's stead but never played 30 minutes in any of those games, was on court for fewer than 20 minutes in the final two games in that span, and scored a total of 22 points on 28 percent shooting. The Wolves outscored their opponent when Dunn was on the floor in just one of those five games.
Dunn got his second chance to start Sunday night against Denver, filling in again for Rubio, who was away from the team for personal reasons. Dunn played a career-high 34 minutes, notching 10 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and three steals in the Wolves' 111-108 victory.
"I just try to do all the little things," he said. "The team is so talented that I don't have to force myself to score. I'm going to just try to do the little things and the other things that help us win. I think that's what makes a great team, everyone doing their job."
That's a lesson young players may need a moment to learn when they come into the league. Now, with more than half a season under his belt, Dunn said he's better prepared for the opportunities presented Sunday.
"I'm just starting to get more comfortable," he said. "I know my role and my position, but I'm starting to learn the other guys, what their tendencies are."
That was evident on a few passes during the game, including a play where Dunn had the ball on the wing and found a slashing Shabazz Muhammad for an easy slam.
"We've got a little connection, I think, going backdoor, and he's doing a good job," Muhammad said. "I think Kris is getting so much better. At the beginning of the season, I think he was kind of lost a little bit, and he's really looking good (now)."
Dunn has played pivotal roles in each of Minnesota's past two games, both wins. In those appearances he's looked like a far different player than what he demonstrated earlier in the season.
"I think he's been coming on for a while," Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. "His defense has been terrific from the beginning, but offensively now he's figuring it out. His second time around he's a little more comfortable, I think he understands the speed of the game and the size, and he's navigating through that well."
Thibodeau said Dunn wants to make plays, and added those playmaking abilities are "huge" for the Wolves. But Thibodeau seems more enamored with the hustle plays Dunn consistently makes.
"Tough plays, loose balls, first to the floors, charges, he'll get in there and he'll rebound in traffic," Thibodeau said. "You're not going to knock him around. Kris has a lot of toughness to him."
Earlier in the season, the point guard conversation generally turned to an ultimatum: Dunn or Tyus Jones? Jones was playing well in his second season while Dunn was finding his way. But Thibodeau stayed firm in his commitment to Dunn serving as the backup point guard behind Rubio.
But Dunn and Jones have shared the court down the stretch of the past two games, and the combination has served Minnesota well.
"What you guys don't see is they play a lot together in practice, so they have a very good chemistry in practice, so you feel like it'll work in a game, too," Thibodeau said. "I like that look, I like what it does for us - it gives us multiple guys who can go off the dribble and force a defense to collapse and then make a play."
The two seem to complement one another well. Dunn said having Jones alongside him allows him to "roam around and try to make plays," which fits Dunn's skill set to a T.
"Tyus controlling the ball, he doesn't feel pressure at all. He's smooth," teammate Andrew Wiggins said. "And Kris is a hawk on the ball, going after everything."
While the two-point guard approach gives Minnesota a different look teams have to prepare for, it also demonstrates the depth the Wolves currently possess at the position. That's an asset as the trade deadline approaches, particularly considering the constant trade rumors circling with Rubio's name attached.