I am only going to say this one time: Kris Dunn is not Russell Westbrook.
I know there is an epidemic present whenever the draft rolls around to compare the upper echelon of prospects to All-stars because it sounds sexy. "Brandon Ingram is the next Kevin Durant," or "Kris Dunn is the next Westbrook" sure makes for great headlines -- but in the aggregate, most of these prospects create their own lane in the NBA. And that's fine. Not everyone has to follow in the footsteps of others.
Dunn has quickly morphed into one of the most divisive players of this draft class. One side of the fence is hypnotized by his oozing combination of herky jerky athleticism and playmaking instincts on both ends of the floor. In contrast, the other side cannot get past his inconsistency on both ends, tendency to disregard the textbook play in favor of the home run and knack for hoisting fastballs towards the rim.
So, which side should you take?
One cannot help but be intrigued after turning on tape of Dunn. Everything about his skill set and frame -- 6'4" 205 lbs -- screams modern NBA guard, and his athleticism with the ball in his hands approaches holy sh*t levels. There is a certain type of fear that is caused when an opposing guard can rise up to snatch a rebound, immediately get into top gear on the break, slice through defenders and find an open shooter stationed in the corner.
Sequences like that are where the Westbrook comparisons come from. Also, this play in particular reminded me of when Draymond Green ignites the Warriors machine by grabbing a rebound and outracing sad sack defenders en route to the rim or sucking the last line of defense in to open up a three for a teammate.
The ability to "grab and go" creates a whole new dimension for offenses as the defense will often be back on its heels reliant on the dangerous game of cross-matching within a transition setting. For teams that want to road-run their way to victories (nearly everyone nowadays), Dunn would be a worthy general.
As mentioned earlier, the Providence product possesses a special breed of athleticism that oozes from the screen and elicits shrieks of "ughhhh" while watching.
That right there is an NBA move in the fullest. Of course, an NBA big man's hedge may present a stiffer challenge than that of a Butler big man (sorry Butler bro), but the decisively sharp change in direction and late burst to finish in the lane is special.
From a Pelicans perspective, Dunn showcased enough off-ball chops to be a threat via shifty cuts to make a worthy backcourt running mate with Jrue Holiday.
Given his size and athleticism, Dunn could figuratively match up well against opposing two guards on defense as well as provide a secondary ball-handling boost while sharing the floor with Holiday. Having two above average ball-handlers on the floor at all times is a must in today's NBA. There are always going to be slight creases to attack after a defense has been stretched to its limit by a flurry of pick and rolls; it is imperative that the off-ball guard can either catch and shoot or attack closeouts in a pinch.
The extra boost of juice Dunn showcases in his game will pay tremendous dividends if developed correctly.
On defense, Dunn averaged a preposterous 3.0 steals per 40 minutes last season and despite some lackadaisical tendencies, he projects to be a scrappy defender. Blessed with a stout frame and lengthy limbs, Dunn is capable of cutting off penetration in a jiffy when engaged and parlays his quickness and instincts into eye-opening steals.
Do not dismiss the maneuvering it took to weave through the wall of picks and beat his man to the spot.
For a player that has shot a respectable percentage from three for the duration of his career (35 percent), Dunn's shot arc and mechanics are wildly inconsistent. Initially I thought the gripes about his jump shot were a bit overdramatic because of the strong percentage he boasts, but after watching more intently at his missed jump shots, I was a bit turned off.
No 35 percent three-point shooter should ever miss the basket that poorly, especially on well more than one occasion. The form of the release is far from broken, but the touch is lacking on a consistent basis, and Dunn will have to iron out his shot in order to reach his full potential as a malleable combo guard -- a fate he has more than enough talent to accomplish.
Although Dunn was regarded as a notable defensive playmaker, he was not without his warts. Too often he would compromise entire possessions by gambling for a steal that was not there.
That coax in judgement is eerily similar to the most frustrating portion of the Westbrook experience and could create bad habits that will linger if not addressed. Steals are a great resource for high percentage looks in transition, but there is still an art to staying within yourself and "doing your job" throughout a team defense setting. Dunn will need to harness his motor at times in the NBA after being given free reign at Providence.
As a frighteningly athletic guard, Dunn has the make-up to fit in seamlessly with the go-go nature of the NBA. Much of his career arc is going to be dependent on which team scoops him up on draft night. If he finds the right coaching staff that focuses on what he can do and lets him loose in the open court, then there is some sneaky rookie of the year potential in there.
Could that place be New Orleans? He figures to be on the Pelicans radar as a turbo-charged Tyreke Evans replacement, and with Eric Gordon likely seeking greener pastures, the roster is going to be thirsty for another guard. There absolutely is a world where he excels within Alvin Gentry's pace-pushing mantra.
I, for one, would not mind paying witness to such world.