Bulls position breakdown: Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine must headline the guard play
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Kris Dunn isn’t wired like most.
Time away from a basketball court is just wasted opportunity.
Tom Thibodeau, his former coach, found that out last offseason.
In his Timberwolves exit meeting with Thibodeau, Dunn was told to take a few weeks off, then hit the practice floor Monday through Thursday. He took 48 hours off and hit the practice floor Monday through Saturday — twice a day.
“That tells you all you need to know about [Dunn],’’ Thibodeau said in February.
Stories like those allow Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson to sleep easier at night when it comes to his backcourt.
After acquiring Dunn and shooting guard Zach LaVine from Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler trade last June, the hope was that Dunn & LaVine wouldn’t just sound like a good law firm. Paxson wanted a backcourt with staying power — LaVine’s athleticism combined with Dunn’s football mentality.
Both showed signs in their first season with the Bulls — just not at the same time.
Injuries and minutes restrictions limited their playing time together, so there’s still a big unknown going into the summer.
But Dunn made huge strides from his rookie season, and there are far fewer questions about him now than when the Bulls first acquired him.
“What we saw from Kris Dunn this year was really encouraging,’’ Paxson said. “When he was healthy, he showed some real competitiveness.
“We saw a lot of good things from Kris. He has an opportunity to be one of the best defensive guards in the league; he certainly showed that at times this year. . . . Kris Dunn had stretches where he was terrific. But he has to improve.’’
Well, that could be said of every Bulls guard.
Who’s coming back
Dunn: He has a Jimmy Butler mentality and possibly the highest ceiling of any guard on the roster.
LaVine: All eyes will be on him this summer. His first season with the Bulls was something of a mulligan coming off the ACL surgery.
Cameron Payne: Once a punch line, Payne showed he could run coach Fred Hoiberg’s offense and earned a backup spot moving forward.
Antonio Blakeney: Is he just a G Leaguer or is he a scoring option off the bench? The Bulls are willing to explore this debate.
Sean Kilpatrick: Yes, his signing was more about the payroll, but if the Bulls move Justin Holiday, they might need his scoring off the bench.
Who could be departing
Jerian Grant: Look for the Bulls to move Grant now that Payne has jumped ahead of him.
Ryan Arcidiacono: They love his toughness and intangibles, but in a numbers game for a roster spot, Arcidiacono loses.
Who’s out there
The Bulls could opt to try to jump-start Year 2 of the rebuild by signing proven veterans on the free-agent market with the hopes of trading them for more draft assets, but the biggest free agent they’ll have to deal with is LaVine. He’s a restricted free agent, and there will be a large gap to overcome between the Bulls and LaVine’s camp when contract negotiations begin.
With the Bulls possibly picking No. 6, there are two guards on the radar in Trae Young and Collin Sexton. According to a source, the Bulls have put a lot of scouting time into Young and might like the Oklahoma point guard more than they should.
Sexton can play either guard spot and brings that “dawg’’ mentality to the backcourt, but No. 6 might be a bit early for him.