Kris Dunn, Ricky Rubio, and the Value of Patience
It’s been a couple days since the draft. On Thursday, opinions were hyperbolic, emotions ran high, and a lot of scenarios (rumors, more specifically) were thrown around in ridiculously high frequency.
Imagine what it’s like in an NBA Draft war room.
To start, let’s recap: the Timberwolves drafted Kris Dunn with the fifth overall pick. Many analysts and mock drafts had him going as high as third, but after he fell to the Wolves, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden decided his talent was too good to pass up.
But even before the Celtics and Suns passed on Dunn, rumors floated around that two teams, the Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls, were high on the point guard. Very, very high.
The Sixers were offering big, big pieces for Dunn.
ESPN sources say Philadelphia is offering Nerlens Noel, No. 24 and No. 26 in tonight's draft and Robert Covington for Boston's No. 3 pick
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 23, 2016
As he fell to the Wolves, the offer stood.
76ers are offering Wolves the same package for 5 that they offered Boston at 3.
— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) June 23, 2016
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls were making, arguably, an even bigger offer for the fifth pick.
ESPN sources say Minnesota continues to try to engage Chicago on talks built around Kris Dunn to try to import Jimmy Butler to the Wolves
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 24, 2016
The Philly rumors died off quickly, but the Chicago talks held on for a while. But I’ll play spoiler: none of it happened.
If this is all that would have happened, I think most people would have felt pretty good at draft’s end. Sure, the Wolves passed up on some attractive prospects like Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield, but the Wolves took the prospect they thought was best. The Bulls and the Sixers were offering big-time deals for a chance to have Dunn on their team, so Thibs was not alone in his infatuation.
Everything would have been fine at the end of the night, had Adrian Wojnarowksi of The Vertical not come out with this.
Minnesota has been shopping Ricky Rubio throughout the week. His future in Minnesota is likely coming to an end.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 24, 2016
This wasn’t the first rumor surrounding Rubio’s potential departure, but it was the first time a high-reputation reporter like Woj had made such claims. This was the first time these rumors felt like a scenario that could one day come true.
As the draft went on, and more reporters came out with trade scenarios (with Chicago, specifically), one thing seemed to be true: whether now or later, Kris Dunn is likely here to eventually replace Ricky Rubio in Minnesota.
Yes, Thibodeau came out and said he believes Dunn and Rubio can play together (though their lack of efficient shooting makes that an iffy pairing as it is), but everything from Thursday makes it seem just as likely that they’ll never play on the same team, let alone see the floor together.
All of this is happening very fast. And if the Wolves want to ensure they have the best point guard play they can get, it’s for the best that they slow down. Way, way down.
Kris Dunn was a hot commodity on draft night, and very well might end up being a fantastic NBA player (and if you haven’t heard the complicated and inspiring story of his upbringing, you need to). It’s possible that he ends up being better than Ricky Rubio. But it’s also entirely possible that he doesn’t.
It’s also possible that Thibodeau is less worried about who is technically better, and simply thinks Dunn’s specific skillset make him a better fit in his system than Rubio. Rubio has plenty of value, is on a good contract (keep in mind the giant salary cap bump taking place), and could fill another area of need if traded this summer.
But in the big picture scope of things, there is no reason to make this trade this summer. Why not enjoy having both point guards on your team, all while figuring out who is the best point guard in Thibs’ system in real time? Finding out post-trade is a scary, potentially regrettable decision.
If Thibodeau is worried about Rubio’s shooting, that’s completely understandable. He’s had historically bad shooting campaigns, and hasn’t really shown any strong signs of developing a consistent jumper (or percentage at the rim).
But Dunn is no stranger to bad shooting either. His percentages are better than Ricky’s, and he’s a significantly better finisher right now. But let’s not forget about the numbers our own Zach Harper broke down in last week’s AWAW Draft Roundtable.
The lack of a reliable jump shot worries me though. He shot 29% on spot-up jumpers. He was 38% on unguarded catch-and-shoot shots, 36% on guarded catch-and-shoot. He was 33% on jumpers off the dribble. His 3-point shot was fine his senior year (37%) but he didn’t show much over the course of his entire college career in that department. He was a fine scorer in the pick-and-roll (0.869 PPP, 76th percentile), but his PnR numbers including passes weren’t good (0.847 PPP, 49th percentile). Is that his fault or just a product of the college game? I don’t know that I have the answer but it’s enough to make me wonder if he’s a sure thing at the next level.
Dunn’s shooting is streaky and at-times inefficient, but even so, he will almost certainly become a more efficient shooter than Rubio as he learns NBA defenses. But Rubio’s calling card has been literally every other facet of the game.
Looking further, there isn’t another area of the game that Dunn has a clear edge on Rubio (with the exception of Dunn’s supreme athleticism, which could help Dunn immensely as he progresses at this level). Dunn’s defensive potential is an exciting feature, but Rubio’s defense, as it is, will be hard to top. Few point guards, if any, are able to top him in that regards right now. We don’t even need to address passing/playmaking ability, which Dunn is solid-to-good at, but Rubio tops the league at.
None of this is to say that Dunn can’t become a superstar point guard. It’s entirely possible that he figures out his shot in the NBA, learns how to dominate opposing teams with his great size and athleticism, and fits perfectly with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. It’s possible he’ll end up fitting perfectly in Tom Thibodeau’s plans for this team’s future.
But going off what’s possible isn’t good enough when you haven’t seen him play a second in the NBA. In the meantime, the Wolves have a fantastic starting point guard to have around, just in case things don’t go as planned with their highly coveted commodity. If things go perfectly with Dunn, Rubio’s value will still be there. He’ll still be who he is, all under a convenient contract.
There’s no reason to rush this. See what’s there before doing something that could end up being a bad decision. Thibodeau and Layden showed patience in the war room on draft night. They still have time. The should keep using it.