Over the next month we'll be recapping each of the Bulls' individual 2018-19 regular seasons.
Preseason expectations: As part of the Jimmy Butler return, Dunn was expected to grab the reins of the point guard position in 2019. He played excellent basketball for a two-month span between November and January. In that 26-game span, Dunn averaged 15.3 points on 45 percent shooting, 7.7 assists and 2.1 steals in 31.4 minutes. He was the Bulls' best closer and looked to be making real strides, which was important considering he was already 24 years at season's end. With Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine having sky-high expectations (that they wound up meeting for the most part), the pressure was on Dunn to keep up.
What went right: Dunn's 6.0 assists per game were good for 23rd in the league, and his 2.66 assist-to-turnover ratio was 10th among the 25 players who averaged 6.0 assists per game. We're not exactly advocating for assist-to-turnover as a relevant stat, but Dunn managed to take care of the ball for the most part. Yes, at times it stuck in his hands and it messed up the flow of the offense. But he was a decent decision maker, specifically in pick-and-roll action. He was certainly better in the halfcourt but much of that was barking orders from Jim Boylen.
Dunn's not overly quick but did a nice job getting inside the paint on drives, where he ranked 27th in the NBA with 11.7 drives per game. His 11.0 assist percentage on drives was 15th best among the 36 players to averaged 11 or more drives per game. He struggled shooting on drives (something we'll get to later) but athleticism and quickness wasn't Dunn's issue. While his finishing needs plenty of work, he starts pretty well and continued to improve on that in his third season.
What went wrong: For starters, injuries plagued him once again. Dunn has missed 66 games the past two seasons. It's tough to improve while you're sitting on the bench. When he was on the floor, Dunn struggled with efficiency. He shot just 42.5 percent from the field - down from last season - on fewer attempts per game, and while he improved his 3-point field goal percentage (to 35.4%) that also came on fewer makes and attempts per game. Dunn was red-hot on midrange attempts when he returned from his knee strain in December but when those shots went cold, he wasn't able to get to the basket or make defenders pay from beyond the arc.
Dunn also regressed as a defender. He was a gambler whose personal fouls per 36 minutes increased to 4.3, and the Bulls were actually 2.3 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Dunn off the floor. What was once his strong suit became another shortcoming. His early-season knee injury didn't do him any favors but it was a troubling year on that end of the floor.
The Stat: 30.2, 1.5, 2.1
Ask James Harden about the importance of free throws and 3-pointers and what it does for a player's (and team's) efficiency. Welcome to the NBA in 2019. But the numbers Dunn posted - or, more accurately, didn't post - in that regard were troubling. He averaged 30.2 minutes, attempted 2.1 3-pointers and went to the free throw line 1.5 times per game. The last guard to average such few free throws and 3-point attempts in as many minutes was 5-foot-3 Muggsy Bogues in 1992.
Dunn lived as a midrange shooter which was...less than ideal. He shot a respectable 35.4 percent from deep - a 3.3% uptick from the previous season - and was nearly 80 percent from the charity stripe. He just took so few of either that it didn't change much for his overall game.
Dunn had 19 games this season in which he didn't shoot a single free throw. He had just 10 games in which he attempted more than two free throws.
2019-20 Expectations: It's about as close to a guarantee as you can get that Dunn will enter his fourth NBA season in a reserve role. The Bulls have been honest and upfront about their need to get better at point guard and that means bumping Dunn down on the depth chart. Maybe he begins the year as a starter and a non-Ja Morant rookie (Coby White or Darius Garland?) begins as the back-up, but Dunn's role will be limited from what it was a year ago.
Assuming he plays the bulk of his minutes in a reserve role, Dunn needs to improve his efficiency. That means fewer of those low-percentage floaters and mid-range jumpers, fewer risks taken both as a passer and a defender, and a slight uptick in either his free throw attempts or 3-point attempts. He needs to be able to hang his hat on something. The potential is there as a distributor and a tough, physical defender in a back-up role.