The assumption all season has been that the Chicago Bulls will move Kris Dunn before the NBA trade deadline. Things seemed to be going well with Dunn playing the best basketball of his NBA career. But his recent injury may have thrown a wrench into the Bulls strategy.
Man Plans, God Laughs.
The Chicago Bulls could never have imagined that a season filled with the promise of an up and coming young team could instead be plagued with injuries to their entire starting front court. Otto Porter has hardly played all year. Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen have once again missed extensive time. Even backups Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchison have fallen victim.
The back court however has been whole. When the season began, many wondered how Jim Boylen would utilize four point guards. In addition to Dunn, the Bulls signed Tomas Satorsansky, resigned Ryan Arcidiacono and drafted Coby White who many thought would be the point guard of the future.
Then, with a surplus of front court players missing games, Dunn’s presence and versatility has proven to be invaluable. He eventually was plugged into the starting small forward slot where he has held his own. He is among league leaders in steals and his turnovers have declined tremendously playing more off the ball. Bulls analyst Stacey King already compares him to a young Marcus Smart or Patrick Beverley, two players who have enjoyed successful careers as defensive specialists.
Until Friday night, when Dunn grabbed his knee in excruciating pain, the Bulls hoped that Dunn’s advertised skill sets could attract a quality piece. The plan had gone well. His ability to cover the opponents best offensive player and his versatility in a small ball lineup define him as a player that can impact a game.
But now the phone may not be ringing with an offer worth listening to. The trade market hates uncertainty. Unfortunately, Dunn is hurt at the worst time of year and the Bulls may have to settle for a different strategy in the short run.
The pressing need to trade Dunn was always based on the assumption that they already have decided to move on from him or that they would not match a deal in excess of his seven million dollar qualifying offer.
The main reasons the Bulls apparently gave up on Dunn as a starting point guard was his inability to develop a consistent three-point shot and that he wanted the ball in his hands. The Bulls also did not feel he was a good complement to Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. John Paxson said at the end of last season that the point guard position needs an upgrade.
Still, since he was injured for such a large chunk of last season, the Bulls were wise to allow Dunn some time to improve his trade value. Before Friday night, many expected Dunn would soon be packaged with a player like Thad Young to a contender in need of depth.
Now, the Bulls may be wise to keep Dunn no matter what offer comes across their desks. If he winds up missing significant time, he will once again have to prove his worth. That means, that this injury not only hurts the Bulls chances of getting back decent value before the trade deadline, but it could very well decrease Dunn’s chances of getting a multi-year deal in excess of the Bulls qualifying offer.
Furthermore, the Bulls have still not settled their starting point guard position.
The season began with Satoransky starting and Dunn leading the second team. It was that reserve unit that often kept the Bulls in games. Even White who has mostly looked like a backup shooting guard, seemed to play his best ball when Dunn led the point. It seems that when Dunn does not have to share the ball with LaVine, he can be an effective point guard setting up Coby who does not need the ball as much as Zach.
The Bulls could actually roll the dice, keep Dunn and extend the qualifying offer with the hope that he will not get a better deal elsewhere. That would give them one more year to capitalize on Dunn’s value, while simultaneously providing them with an experienced back up point guard and lock down defender.
Stuck with Dunn, so to speak, the Bulls may even decide to shop Satoransky before the trade deadline. That would mean Arcidiacono would start and Coby could have a shot at running the second team until Dunn’s return. Satoransky, who is an experienced veteran on a reasonable contract, may even attract a better return than Dunn at this point.
The timing of Dunn’s injury could not seem worse but in reality, it may force a shift in strategy that could more benefit the Bulls in the long run. When one door closes, another always opens. The key is not to fear walking through. The Bulls still have assets and positions of need.