After searching far and wide this offseason for some guard depth, the Celtics have added another name in the backcourt – former Chicago Bull Kris Dunn.
On Saturday, the Celtics announced they’d be acquiring Dunn, big man Bruno Fernando and a 2023 second-round pick from the Atlanta Hawks as the returns from a three-team deal that sent center Tristan Thompson to the Sacramento Kings. The Kings sent guard Delon Wright to the Hawks as part of the swap.
Dunn never had a chance to establish himself last season with the Hawks, working his way back from injury for nine combined games in the regular season and playoffs in which he shot 2-of-17 from the field.
Yet a couple seasons back, as a Bull, Dunn was one of the most promising young defenders in the league. In 2019-20, Dunn ranked second only to Giannis Antetokounmpo across the entire NBA in defensive box plus-minus, and twice averaged two steals a game. He was also a strong playmaker, averaging six assists a game in a season twice while rarely turning the ball over.
However, a string of injuries – Dunn hasn’t played over 55 games in a season since his rookie year – and a shaky jumper has limited his development.
At Providence, where his play led to him being taken fifth in the 2016 NBA Draft, Dunn shot a respectable 35.4% from deep. However, that mark has dipped to 30.5% on just 1.8 attempts per game in the pros. He’s made small improvements as a finisher around the rim, but has struggled to develop any sort of in-between game – making him a net negative on the offensive end.
Dunn will have to fight for minutes in a now-crowded Celtics backcourt. But perhaps a stint with Boston and their recently-added “shooting guru” of an assistant coach in Ben Sullivan will help the guard with his jumper. Minutes with both Smart and Dunn on the floor would be hell for opposing guards, and there’s plenty of lineups featuring Dunn as a primary ballhandler that new head coach Ime Udoka could experiment with.
With one year left on a 2-year, $10 million deal originally signed with the Hawks, Dunn will likely be motivated to make an impact on the rotation before he hits free agency.
Thompson, meanwhile, will leave a large but replaceable void in the Celtics’ frontcourt. The center’s 8.1 rebounds a game last season will be missed, but his inconsistent defensive presence and limited offensive game won’t.
Fernando has a chance as a third-year player to carve out his own role amidst the Celtics’ swath of young big men. However, after showing some promise as a rookie in 2019-20, his production cratered last season without a consistent spot in the rotation.
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