If you’ve yet to notice, Providence College in Rhode Island is home to one of the most electric players in college basketball. Kris Dunn, the Friars’ 6’4’’, 220 pound (redshirt) junior point guard, may not be a household name quite yet, but by the end of the season, his moniker is sure to be on the lips of every college basketball talking head and casual fan in the country.
As a high school junior in New London, Connecticut, Dunn put up an impressive stat line of 26.5 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals per contest while leading his squad to a perfect 27-0 record. The following season, Dunn played 12 games, pouring in 33.3 points per game while grabbing 9.8 boards, before succumbing to a season-ending torn labrum. Despite this injury, Dunn was still named a McDonald’s All-American and was rated the 23rd best recruit nationally by ESPN (#1 in Connecticut). After receiving offers from Louisville, Georgetown, and UConn among others, Dunn eventually signed with Coach Ed Cooley and the Friars, making him one of Providence’s highest-ranking recruits in program history.
Dunn had a fairly tumultuous first two seasons at Providence, missing his first nine games as a freshman and playing in only four games his sophomore season due to the same aforementioned shoulder injury. As a freshman, Dunn received a little over 27 minutes per contest, averaging 5.7 / 4.8 / 3.2 / 1.2 (points / rebounds / assists / steals) per game. His sophomore season was merely a blip on his college career radar, as the injury limited him to a minimal amount of playing opportunity. In 2014-15, Dunn’s junior year, the guard burst onto the scene like toothpaste exploding from its container after a fat kid jumped on the tube for no apparent reason. In his breakout campaign, Dunn led the nation with a 50.1 Assist Rate*, was 5th in the nation in Steal Percentage**, and averaged 15.6 / 5.5 / 7.5 / 2.7 per game while shooting 50.5% from the floor.
Dunn decided to forego the NBA draft and return for his fourth season (a medical redshirt makes him a junior technically) this year, despite being picked by many to land in the first round. So far, it looks like Dunn has made the right call. He currently ranks 7th in the nation in Assist Rate, 2nd in Steal Percentage, and is currently averaging career highs in points (19.0), rebounds (6.0), assists (6.7), steals (3.7), and blocks (1.0). Dunn put on fifteen pounds of good weight this off-season, is currently projected as a top ten selection in the 2016 draft, and is a front runner for National Player of the Year.
In this segment, we take a closer look at what makes Kris Dunn such a dominant floor leader and one of the best players in the country.
* - Assists divided by the field goals made by the player’s teammates while he is on the court (KenPom)
** - Percentage of possessions that a player records a steal while he is on the court.
Slashing and Post-up Ability
Dunn is a natural scorer that can beat a defender in a multitude of ways. Perhaps his most effective tool in his offensive tool bag is his devastating jump stop. Here we see Dunn coming off a screen and utilizing his favorite move, hopping through the lane, splitting two defenders, and finishing with an off-hand layup:
Dunn’s 6’4’’ 220 pound frame gives him a distinct size and strength advantage over opposing point guards, and he uses this advantage while carrying out his signature move.
Dunn also likes to create space with a quick spin move, opening room to work with an up-fake and deft footwork:
In addition, he is one of the very best point guards in the post and possesses a plethora of moves from a fancy wheel move along the baseline to a fade in the middle.
Watch him terrorize the overmatched Tum Tum Nairn and laugh with me:
Dunn's unique combination of size and strength makes him a matchup nightmare for any defense.
Step-back and Pull-up
Dunn complements his near-unstoppable penetration ability with a deadly and sudden step-back jumper, most of the time from directly in front or behind the three-point arc. While this certainly is never considered a very efficient shot, Dunn hits a passable percentage of them – at least enough to keep the defense honest, opening up a shot-fake and blow-by opportunity later on in the game.
This particular side-step of his is a personal favorite of mine. In one fluid motion (almost-traveling), Dunn creates enough space from his defender to rise above and sink a tough jumper:
In this smaller variation, we see Dunn brutalizing poor Tum Tum once again as the Sparty guard is forced to make a do-or-die decision to either defend Dunn's devastating drive or press up and challenge his shot:
Though sometimes not the most efficient shot, Dunn's pull-up gives Providence a fall-back plan when the shot clock is ticking down or the offense is in need of a pick-me-up.
Providence as a team is one of the very best in the country at forcing turnovers, and most of this is thanks to Kris Dunn. These turnovers (most of which are a direct result of Dunn’s defense) lead to many transition opportunities.
Here Dunn blocks his opponent's shot, initiating a 3 on 2 scenario:
Then sprints down the court with the ball like a bat out of hell, finishing at the rim before the two Illinois defenders even turn around:
Dunn is a whiz at pushing the ball on a fast break, either driving all the way through the lane for an easy finish or foul, or whipping a pass to an open teammate for a trey.
Here he grabs a board preparing to push the tempo and beat the defense down the floor:
With a full head of steam, Dunn freezes the defending freshman Tommy McCarthy with a hesitation and overpowers him at the rim for an easy deuce:
His court vision is yet another aspect of his game that sets him apart from other guards at this level. Check out this pass he threads to Ben Bentil down the center of the court off a Sparty miss:
The clip above segues nicely into the next facet of Dunn's elite game...
As previously stated, Dunn possesses outrageous court vision, making him one of the best facilitators in college basketball. Not many players lead their respective squads in scoring and assists, and it’s certainly a fine line to toe as taking shots or passing to teammates usually eats into the other stat.
Dunn manages to be a dominant scorer but still has the court awareness and basketball IQ to recognize the importance of involving his teammates in the basketball game.
Here Dunn sees sharpshooter Ryan Fazekas alone on the wing behind the arc. Instead of immediately whipping a pass to Fazekas, Dunn sets up his defender with a quick jab and a dribble to his left (notice how all of Brown's defenders are locked in on Dunn and move as he moves). After the set-up, Dunn floats an easy pass to his teammate for a trey:
Basketball is a team sport and no matter the ability of an individual player, one guy can’t often lead a team to a truly elite level – especially at the college ranks. Dunn’s supporting cast is a good one and the point guard realizes this.
Dunn is a great post entry passer, transition passer, and kick-out passer (he also limits his turnovers well for a player who uses 32% of his teams possessions). This clip exhibits everything I love about his passing ability:
Above, he uses his superior height over the defending guard to see the action underneath the basket. Dunn wisely waits as Bentil clears out of the lane, allowing just a split second of time for the guard to thread a pass through basically every Spartan on the floor to Bullock for a lay-up.
Similarly, below Dunn looks off four Harvard defenders as Fazekas comes sprinting around the baseline, threatening for a three. Dunn's subtle look-off allows Bullock to go unnoticed behind the Crimson D, allowing the guard to throw up a perfect alley-oop pass to the corner of the backboard.
That's just pretty basketball.
What solidifies Dunn’s campaign for player of the year is his ability to be a two-way player. Not only does the guard excel on the offensive end of the floor, but he also is one of the best perimeter defenders in the Big East and perhaps the nation. Last season, Dunn was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year, mostly as a result of his uncanny ability to steal the ball from opposing players.
Dunn starts behind his mark on this possession but still manages to recover, poke the lazy pass away, and hustle down the floor for a dunk:
As mentioned earlier, Dunn was 5th in the nation in steal percentage as a junior, and currently is only behind Omaha’s Tre-Deon Hollins in the same category this year.
Dunn’s 6’8’’ wing span makes him a long, rangy defender that allows him to reach in on opposing guards without fouling and encroach into passing lanes for easy buckets on the other end. In addition, this length helps Dunn recover on a blow-by or help out his teammates for blocks at the rim.
Watch how Dunn just smothers Harvard guard Andre Chatfield:
After instilling the fear of God in his opponent, Dunn finishes the job by forcing the stumbling Chatfield to cough up the rock, starting a Providence fast break.
Dunn's elite defensive ability makes him one of the most well-rounded players in the country.
At this point in the early season, Kris Dunn is a first-team All-American lock, and my personal preference for player of the year. If he continues to help his good-not-great team exceed expectations and finish in the top 3 or 4 of the Big East, he should be in prime position to capture the hardware at season end.
Of course, Dunn’s greatest competition lies in fellow triple-double enthusiasts Denzel Valentine and Ben Simmons, who certainly make intriguing POY cases as well. Either way, all fans of college basketball should make it a point to sit down and give Kris Dunn a watch; he truly is a special player and one of the most exciting guards around.
He provides Providence with a knockout punch threat and could play the all-too-familiar role of “hero guard” come NCAA tournament time (think Mateen Cleaves, Kemba Walker, and Shabazz Napier) as the Friars battle from their (likely) 5 to 7 seed slot.