Some good news can be extracted from the Chicago Bulls’ recent slump.
Their poor performance in the past five games shows how valuable point guard Kris Dunn has been.
And, yeah, I know more losses also mean a higher draft pick. I’ll just stick with John Paxson’s preseason line, “The wins and losses will take of themselves.”
Dunn really was the catalyst in the Bulls’ surprising turnaround, which produced a 14-8 record from Dec. 8 until Jan. 17, when Dunn took a nasty fall after a breakaway dunk against Golden State and suffered a concussion.
There were some promising reports on Dunn’s recovery Monday, though it seems unlikely he will play in the three-game West Coast trip, which begins Wednesday in Portland. Dunn is planning to travel with the team.
“Kris, he’s doing a lot better,” coach Fred Hoiberg said Monday at the Advocate Center. “Starting last night, you could just tell his eyes were brighter; he’s starting to turn the corner and obviously that’s a great thing right now.
“The return-to-play protocol has been put into place. He was able to get on the bike today and do a little bit of work with that. Now he needs to pass a running test. And then he needs to pass a contact test.
“So he’s still got a lot of stuff to pass. … But he is starting to turn the corner. He’s starting to make progress.”
Zach LaVine, Dunn’s teammate in Minnesota last season, shared some personal observations on Dunn’s recovery.
“I see him every day. He’s in here working,” LaVine said. “I’ve been over to his house a couple times to check on him. He’s doing a lot better. He’ll be back out there soon. He looks fine. I just saw him back there eating with me today. So he’s good.”
When looking at what has been different about the Bulls since Dunn has been sidelined, the numbers produced by replacement Jerian Grant aren’t much different.
In the past five games as the starting point guard, Grant has averaged 12.2 points and 7.0 assists, compared to Dunn’s 13.6 points and 7.6 assists in the previous five games.
Hoiberg has talked about how much the Bulls miss Dunn’s ability to push the ball and get fastbreak baskets. But the Bulls actually have more fastbreak points and played at a faster pace in the five games Grant started.
A couple of statistics stand out, though.
The Bulls are turning it over more without Dunn in the lineup — 16.2 in the last five games compared to 13.2 in the previous five. That has led to a big difference in opponents’ fastbreak points, 18.0 in the last five, up from 11.8.
The Bulls are scoring fewer points per game without Dunn in the lineup, even with that double-overtime loss in New Orleans pushing the point total last Monday.
Some individual players seem to have suffered the most, though. Lauri Markkanen averaged 19.3 points in the last five games Dunn started and has dropped to 14.6 points without him. Justin Holiday’s field-goal percentage dipped from .407 to .302. LaVine’s shooting percentage fell from .424 to .328.
So that’s two starters whose shooting percentage has dropped 100 points since Dunn left the lineup.
Is that due to personal slumps, or is Dunn that much better at running the offense and getting teammates good looks?
That question will be tough to answer until Dunn returns.
But it is true that Dunn has been a difference-maker, which is a nice result for a guy thought to be the third-most important player in the Jimmy Butler trade.
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