There’s a reason the Bulls gave Mike Dunleavy a three-year, $14.5-million free-agent contract last summer.
Because he’s worth every cent of it.
Going back to last year’s regular season, the Bulls are 44-26 (.628 winning percentage) when Dunleavy plays and 36-32 (.529) when he’s out.
Need more? After missing a good chunk of this season after undergoing back surgery, Dunleavy returned to the court on Feb. 6 on a minutes restriction, as the Bulls went winless in his first four games. Since his minutes have gone over the 20-minute mark, however, the Bulls are 3-0.
The Dunleavy Effect was on full display in Wednesday’s win over Washington, even with the veteran forward scoring just 14 points. No Jimmy Butler, no Derrick Rose and no Nikola Mirotic, and still a win that registered 26 assists with basically a supporting cast on the floor.
“I think a big part of it, having Mike Dunleavy out there,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said of his team stepping up against the Wizards. “He helps the offense so much, whether he’s getting shots up or not, just because he always knows where to be, spaces the floor, he knows what to do against pressure. He’s another guy that can really cut. With he and Doug [McDermott] out there together you got two very good players at reading screens and reading different situations, and curling and flaring. That certainly helps.’’
It certainly helps McDermott.
The second-year forward is averaging 8.8 points per game this season, but since Dunleavy returned to the court McDermott is averaging 14.6 points per game, including a career night against Toronto in which he dropped 30 on the Raptors.
“It’s huge,’’ McDermott said of having Dunleavy on the floor. “He’s such a good teammate. Just very vocal. When I’m on the bench I’m always watching Mike and what he’s doing out there because it’s someone I can really learn from. He has a bunch of little tricks he does out there that people don’t notice, but he’s a great guy to learn from.’’
That was another reason the Bulls wanted Dunleavy around for a few more seasons.
Dunleavy will make $4.8 million this season and next season, and the team has an option on him for the 2017-18 season at $3.3 million.
Besides playing the role of glue for the team, Dunleavy has added tutor to McDermott, and the 24-year-old has no problem playing student.
“The big thing with Doug right now is the way he’s moving without the ball,’’ Hoiberg said.
A strength of Dunleavy’s by the way.
“Our overall movement has been really good these last three games, and Doug has been a recipient of that just because of moving it and spacing it,’’ Hoiberg said. “And the big thing is right now he’s so much more confident. At the end of the day when you looked at when he was going through his struggles before the break to where he’s playing now, I think the biggest thing you attribute that to is confidence.’’
Confidence that has increased with a better understanding of what will make his game tick.
“I think I’m moving more,’’ McDermott said. “That’s what it’s all about. And I think we’re sharing the ball better. It’s a combination of it. And I just feel more confident out there. I think All-Star break was a good rest for me, get off my feet a little bit. I just feel a lot more comfortable.’’