NBA free agency: Warriors signing Kris Dunn suddenly more realistic

Brian Witt
·4 min read

Dunn suddenly a more realistic Warriors free-agent target originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

In what arguably has been the most unexpected development in the lead-up to NBA free agency, the Chicago Bulls reportedly will not retain someone who might be of particular interest to the Warriors.

NBC Sports Chicago's K.C. Johnson reported Monday that the Bulls will not extend a qualifying offer to guard Kris Dunn, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Johnson listed the Los Angeles Clippers as one team reportedly expected to pursue Dunn on the open market, but there's every reason to believe the Warriors are included in that group, too. Golden State has a major need at his position, and the chances of adding Dunn likely have improved now that he'll be unrestricted.

Had the Bulls extended Dunn the qualifying offer worth just over $7 million, they would have been eligible to match any contract offer he received as a restricted free agent. Now, Chicago loses that ability, and Dunn can pick the destination he wants. And Dunn signing with Golden State could be a great fit for both sides.

Dunn, 26, was selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Timberwolves. After spending his rookie season with Minnesota, he was traded to Chicago, where he has spent the last three seasons. He hasn't lived up to expectations, but he has developed into one of the best defenders in the league. 

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Last season, Dunn averaged 2.0 steals per game and posted the top steal rate (3.8 percent) in the Association. When he was on the floor, the Bulls posted a defensive rating of 103.6 points against per 100 possessions, compared to 110.4 when he was off it. He's very athletic, and at 6-foot-3, offers the length to disrupt ball-handlers and passing lanes.

While Dunn is a tremendous defender, though, he struggles offensively. He shot 35.4 percent from 3-point range two seasons ago, but that mark tumbled to a career-worst 25.9 percent this past season. He's not a dynamic scorer, and he's probably an average distributor at best.

The Bulls apparently have seen enough to decide he's not in their future plans, but that doesn't seem like the wisest move. Even if you view him as purely a lockdown defender, $7 million isn't exorbitant for a player who should just now be entering his prime. And what is Chicago's loss could be the Warriors' gain.

The Warriors have at least three major holes to fill through the draft and free agency: A big, a wing and a guard. Two of those holes theoretically could be filled with two of Golden State's better assets: The No. 2 pick in Wednesday's draft, and the Warriors' giant $17.2 million trade exception. If the Warriors hypothetically were to add a big and wing with those assets, they could use some or all of the $5.7 million taxpayer mid-level exception to address the guard spot.

Would that be enough to entice Dunn to join Golden State? That remains to be seen. It wouldn't be surprising if he got a more lucrative offer from another team. But from the Warriors' perspective, there are several reasons why they should consider pursuing him as aggressively as they're able to. 

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He'd provide them with another standout on-ball defender at a position of need, and one would imagine that if any team were able to fix his shooting struggles, it'd be the one with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on it. And at only 26 years of age, Dunn accomplishes the Warriors' simultaneous priorities of improving the roster in the immediate and down the road.

If the Warriors can convince Dunn to sign for part or all of the mid-level, that could turn out to be a tremendous value signing for Golden State. It's probably not likely to happen, but it's certainly more possible now that the Bulls have decided to move on.