I’ve already written on the strong starts to the season for National Player of the Year candidates like Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine and LSU’s Ben Simmons, but another NBA prospect is making just as much noise of his own during this non-conference part of the schedule. Providence senior point guard Kris Dunn has been arguably the best player in the nation this year, and his NBA stock continues to rise because of it.
Many saw Dunn as a lottery lock in the 2016 draft after deciding to stay in school despite projections as a potential first-rounder in the 2015 draft. It was a surprise to see him stay, but now he’s reaping the rewards — NBADraft.net and DraftExpress both have him in their most recent top fives. He’s moved up my board as well with an impressive start to the season, including his first career triple-double (16 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds) in a Dec. 2 blowout win against Hartford, and a near quadruple-double(!) against NJIT (22 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 7 steals):
— #BE4Nova (@BIGEASTMBB) December 3, 2015
Dunn was just as good against ranked teams like Arizona and current AP poll No. 1 Michigan State during the Wooden Legacy tournament. He averaged 20.0 points, 7.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 steal against the two teams, but lost to a deeper, more talented Michigan State team in the final, 77-64. That’s what makes what Dunn is doing all the more impressive; the lack of depth and overall talent on his Providence squad makes it tough on him as the No. 1 option.
Per Sports-Reference.com, Dunn’s usage percentage is at a career-high 30.7 percent. Despite that, he’s also averaging a career-high in points (16.8), rebounds (6.1), steals (3.4), blocks (1.1), but also a career-low in turnovers (2.9 per game). He’s struggled in certain areas, however, as his three-point shot has been an issue at just 23.1 percent — although he did shoot a respectable 35.1 percent last year. His field goal percentage has slipped as a result, now at 45.6 percent after a solid 47.4 as a junior. Per hoop-math.com, his mid-range jump shot has also taken a small dip this year as well, from 41.8 percent as a junior to a decent 38.0 percent this year.
It didn’t help when lethal swingman LaDontae Henton — only the second Providence player in their history to accumulate 2,000+ points and 1,000+ boards — graduated after his last season. Also, would-be senior forward Tyler Harris used the grad transfer rule to play for Bruce Pearl at Auburn, leaving little left for Dunn in terms of talent on the roster. Yet here we are — mostly because of Dunn — with Providence at 9-1 and firmly in the top 25 at No. 15 in the country.
Dunn’s main source of help on this depleted roster is athletic sophomore big man Ben Bentil. Sophomore forward Rodney Bullock had a strong start to the season before struggling in the Wooden Legacy tournament, but he’s bounced back strong with double figures the last few games. Ryan Fazekas and Jalen Lindsey provide shooting for Dunn on the perimeter, but not much else. If Dunn is able to keep up this strong play and the Friars keep winning, there’s no doubt he’ll be in the thick of the National Player of the Year conversation all season long:
— The Morning Hangover (@TheMorningHang) December 6, 2015
Dunn is a true floor general, and he’s able to control the pace of each game to his liking. His size (6-4 with a 6-9 wingspan) and quickness make it difficult on opposing point guards to stay in front of him on the perimeter, and he’s able to take smaller guards into the post with his 205-pound frame.
Dunn’s frame is very reminiscent of John Wall’s, and his speed, athleticism and quickness are well above average for an NBA point guard as well. His defense should be a plus at the next level with his attention to detail and length in the passing lanes. With all these tools on both ends of the floor, he has the chance to be an immediate impact starter at the next level:
I repeat. Kris Dunn: LOTTO PICK. Superb instincts on D https://t.co/UcfOPr3IuW
— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) December 6, 2015
But there’s still plenty for Dunn to prove in his senior season. Scouts will be looking for his three-point shot to make its way back to where it was last year, and hopefully see him learn to deal with the pressure of being a No. 1 option while the younger players on this team grow into their roles throughout the season.
A big run by Dunn in March would lock him in as a top five pick, and the way he’s produced thus far has gotten everybody’s attention as a contender for National Player of the Year. It’s all on the table for Dunn after making the surprising decision to return for his final go-round with the Friars.