Though Kris Dunn hasn’t developed into the difference-making guard the Bulls hoped for, his value as a niche defender continues to grow as the Bulls struggle in his absence — hardly insignificant with Dunn a restricted free agent after this season.
The Bulls had held opponents below their scoring average in six consecutive games before Dunn sprained his right knee against the Nets on Jan. 31 in New York. Since then, 12 consecutive teams had matched or exceeded their scoring average against the Bulls heading into the game Monday night against the Mavericks.
The Bulls have dropped from ninth to 15th in defensive-efficiency ratings with Dunn out.
“Dunn’s a huge part of it,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I think he was a first-team all-defensive guy [before the injury]. And his presence on the floor — [he has the] ability to knock balls loose, command our defense. He has a leadership component to him, too. He’s a voice in a tough moment in the film room, in the huddle. Those guys are hard to replace. Sometimes you don’t know how valuable a guy is until he’s not around.”
Mavericks backup point guard Jalen Brunson, the son of former Bull Rick Brunson who won a state championship at Stevenson in 2015 and NCAA titles at Villanova in 2016 and 2018, missed his fifth consecutive game after injuring his right shoulder against the Hawks on Feb. 22.
Brunson, a second-round pick in 2018, has established himself as a valuable rotation player, averaging 8.2 points and 3.3 assists. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who expertly managed three point guards to beat LeBron James and the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals, not surprisingly has a fine appreciation for Brunson’s versatility.
“He’s a terrific all-around player,” Carlisle said. “He can slide into any role, from starting to primary rotation, if you need him to. He’s played the one, two and three for us. He has great skill. He has terrific moxie for the game and great resourcefulness on both sides of the ball. He’s a winner. He just finds ways to help a team win games.”
Grand Funk finale
Bulls TV play-by-play announcer Neil Funk will officially retire April 15 after the Bulls’ regular-season finale against the Celtics at TD Garden. A celebration of Funk’s career with the Bulls at a future home game will be announced, the team said.
Fill-in announcers alongside analyst Stacey King for the last 11 games that Funk will miss were announced Monday:
Wednesday at Minnesota (Adam Amin), Sunday at Brooklyn (Jason Benetti), March 12 at Orlando (J.B. Long), March 14 at Miami (Long), March 20 at San Antonio (Amin), March 21 at Houston (Amin), March 30 at Utah (Lisa Byington), April 3 at Denver (Long), April 5 at Phoenix (Byington), April 6 at L.A. Clippers (Amin) and April 8 at L.A. Lakers (Amin).