Timberwolves snag Providence's Dunn at No. 5
MINNEAPOLIS -- Things started to fall into place for the Timberwolves to get the top player on their board after the Boston Celtics selected Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 pick in Thursday's NBA draft.Several mock drafts had Kris Dunn going to Bosto...
MINNEAPOLIS - Things started to fall into place for the Timberwolves to get the top player on their board after the Boston Celtics selected Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
Several mock drafts had Kris Dunn going to Boston, but that didn’t happen. Once the Phoenix Suns selected Dragan Bender at No. 4, the stage was set for the Wolves to get their guy - Dunn.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior from Providence was regarded by several analysts as the best player in the draft behind No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram, who went to the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers, respectively.
“There a lot of things I like about him,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said of Dunn. “What he was able to accomplish during his career at Providence. His competitiveness. He’s gotten better each year. He can execute pick-and-rolls. He can make plays. He can hit the three. He plays great defense.”
The New London, Conn., native was a second-team All-American and just the sixth player to be named Big East player of the year twice. Dunn averaged 16.4 points, 5.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds last season for the Friars.
“There’s no doubt about it,” ESPN’s Jay Williams said on the draft telecast. “He is the best guard in this draft.”
Whether they were going to keep Dunn was an entirely different question throughout the rest of the night. A few other teams were reportedly in hot pursuit of him, especially the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers.
ESPN's Marc Stein tweeted late in the first round that the Wolves had not "surrendered their Jimmy Butler quest," which meant possibly giving up Dunn and a talented young player such as Zach LaVine for the two-time all-star.
"When you make the pick, and then see how much attention that comes from other teams and how much activity there is," Minnesota general manager Scott Layden said, "it gives you some idea of how he was valued."
When asked if he thought he might be traded after Minnesota selected him, Dunn simply said: "No, that didn’t even cross my mind. Not once."
Reports surfaced earlier Thursday that Thibodeau was leaning toward drafting Oklahoma's Buddy Hield if Dunn was not available. Kentucky's Jamal Murray was another possibility because he and Hield were the two best three-point shooters in the draft. But Hield went to the New Orleans Pelicans and Murray got selected by the Denver Nuggets.
Minnesota's two biggest team needs are outside shooting and defense. Dunn takes care of the latter as a ball-hawking guard with the ability to play tough on-ball defense and get into passing lanes. He is the only guard to win both Big East player of the year and defensive player of the year in the same season.
“The first thing I feel like I could bring the Wolves is my defense,” Dunn said. “I always tell people that’s my greatest strength, and that’s one thing you can control every game. Someone is just coming in who’s having that dog mentality. That’s what got me here, the hard work, playing with that grit and that toughness.”
Dunn had one of the most emotional interviews after being drafted Thursday night. He broke down in tears after talking about his mother, Pia, who died after his sophomore year at Providence.
"My mom, she passed away; I know she's looking up at me," Dunn said. "I'm doing this for my city and everybody that supported me. I love everybody."
Family tragedy happened around the same time Dunn was struggling with his second shoulder injury in as many years. He had surgery before his freshman season in college and played in only four games as a sophomore after reinjuring the same shoulder. It cost him most of the season.
Dunn came on strong in his first full season after a medical redshirt year, putting up 15.6 points, 7.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds in 2014-15. He declared for the draft last year but eventually returned to school to improve as a player and earn his college degree.
Dunn’s NBA dreams were briefly put on hold. It was worth the wait.
“I feel like I learned more by coming back,” he said Thursday. “I learned more about the game. I learned more about myself. I think I became more mature mentally and physically, and I got to improve.”