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NBA PM: Kris Dunn Excited for Draft Process

Kris Dunn is excited to turn his NBA dream into reality and hopes to make an immediate impact.

Alex Kennedy

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Kris Dunn Excited for Pre-Draft Process

The pre-draft process is getting underway for the 2016 class and former Providence point guard Kris Dunn is excited for the journey that lies ahead. Dunn’s lifelong dream of playing in the NBA is on the verge of becoming reality and he can’t wait to showcase his game and meet with teams.

“This is really exciting,” Dunn told Basketball Insiders. “I think the whole process is exciting. Every player in the draft wants to show what they can do and prove all of their doubters wrong. I’ve been doubted my whole life – on and off the court. I’m used to that and it definitely fuels my fire. If someone doubts me, I just take what they said and bring it to the gym. You can’t get down on yourself – you just have to play and get through any adversity and prove the doubters wrong.

“I’ve been dreaming of this moment for a long time. I mean, I’ve always wanted to play in the NBA. I really don’t know how I’ll react to hearing my name [on draft night]. I’ll definitely be excited, but I might cry just because of all the hard work I put in. I really don’t know what my emotions will be.”

KrisDunnInsideDunn is projected to be one of the top picks on June 23. In Basketball Insiders’ most recent mock draft, he is slotted at fourth overall. Our good friends at DraftExpress currently have Dunn going fifth overall. Once the lottery order is decided, team needs can be factored in and it’ll be easier to project where he’ll land. However, both mock drafts have one thing in common: Dunn is the first point guard to come off of the board.

With his 6’4 body, 6’9 wingspan, terrific athleticism and stifling perimeter defense, Dunn was a match-up nightmare at the collegiate level and he drove opposing point guards crazy. He was Second Team All-American this season and finished his Providence career as a two-time Big East Player of the Year, two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year and two-time First Team All-Big-East selection.

This past season, Dunn averaged 16.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.5 steals while leading Providence to 24 wins. He shot 44.8 percent from the field and a career-high 37.2 percent from three-point range (on 3.4 attempts per game). He finished the season with the third-highest assist percentage (41.8 percent) and sixth-highest steal percentage (4.3 percent) in the nation. Not to mention, he ranked 16th among all players in Box Plus-Minus (11.3) and had an impressive 23.5 PER. Out of DraftExpress’ top 100 prospects in the 2016 draft class, Dunn averaged the most steals per game and the fourth-most assists per game.

Dunn had a number of jaw-dropping performances throughout the 2015-16 campaign. In the first game of the season against Harvard, he filled the stat sheet with 32 points, eight steals, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks in the win. Three games later against NJIT, Dunn had 22 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, seven steals and a block in the win. In a December win over Hartford, he had a triple-double (16 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds along with three steals and a block) while shooting 8-12 from the field. When all was said and done, he scored 20 or more points in 11 games and recorded three or more steals in 13 games.

Former Friars point guard God Shammgod, who played 20 seasons professionally and is currently on Providence’s coaching staff, has trained Dunn throughout his collegiate career and expects him to be superstar in the NBA.

“I’m biased, but I really think he’s a first-pick-caliber player. I think Kris can be a guy who makes 13 to 14 All-Star appearances,” Shammgod told Basketball Insiders. “He’s so talented on both ends of the floor and he does the little things that people don’t notice too. He throws the advance pass as well as any player I’ve seen since Jason Kidd. That may not jump out to others, but little things like that separate him from other players. With his game, leadership and personality, he’s a face-of-the-franchise type of player. He’s the guy you want to build a team around. Not only is he a great player, he’s a great leader and great person off the court. Everyone loves who he is and loves his personality. When he sits down with NBA executives, they’re going to be impressed.”

It remains to be seen how high Dunn can climb in the upcoming draft. It’s worth noting that Dunn recently turned 22 years old, making him one of the oldest players projected to be picked in the lottery (which is typically littered with one-and-done prospects). While his age may scare some teams that want to go with a younger player, it also means he is one of the most NBA-ready players in this draft class. That should help him during the pre-draft process and in his rookie year since he’s the kind of player who can step in and make an impact from day one.

“Even though I didn’t play all four years due to my injury, I’ve been around the college game for so long that I think I have more knowledge than the other guys [in the draft],” Dunn said. “I definitely think that will help me. One reason why I stayed in college another year is so that I can come in and make an immediate impact.

“I learned a lot as a person [by staying in school]. I think that’s what college is for; it allows you to grow and it allows you to make mistakes that you can learn from. Staying this past year to finishing up school is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I got my college degree and also because I improved a lot on the court. Now, I can be the kind of player that I want to be in the NBA. My four years have been unreal and amazing. I wish I could do it all over again. There were so many great moments.”

Dunn has drawn some comparisons to a young John Wall, who is one of many players that the Providence product studies. Shammgod gives him game film to watch of Wall, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo (who was Dunn’s favorite player entering college), Gary Payton, Jamal Crawford and Michael Ray Richardson among others. Shammgod wanted Dunn to take bits and pieces from each individual’s game and study a diverse group of guards. For example, Ray Richardson was selected for Dunn because, as Shammgod said, “They’re the same height and he was a great dribbler, rebounder and defender. Kris told me, ‘That old guy was nice!’”

Dunn speaks highly of Shammgod and gives him a lot of credit for his development.

“He helped me improve my dribbling and my confidence,” Dunn said. “He had seen me play before I got to college, back when I was a McDonald’s All-American. He always told me to be confident and play like that McDonald’s All-American he saw. He has brought so much to the game – nobody can deny that. His dribbling and the actual Shammgod move are part of the game’s history. I learned a lot from him. A lot. I also learned how to be a point guard from him. He played that position and did a great job at Providence. We watched a lot of film together and he helped me implement things from certain players who I want to play like such as John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and others. Without him, a lot of this probably wouldn’t even be happening. He taught me so much.”

Shammgod enjoyed teaching Dunn and watching the floor general make huge strides each season.

“It’s been an honor and a pleasure to work with him over the past four years,” Shammgod said. “I’ve watched him grow up, as a player and as a person. He has overcome adversity, dealing with his mother’s death, dealing with injuries and more. His support system at home helps; his dad is a very hard worker and his step mother is too. For them to trust me to guide him, it is an honor. For him to listen, since I’ve been in a similar position, that’s been great. He is willing to listen and be coached. He is humble and shows his appreciation to me as well as the other coaches, team managers and everyone he comes across.

“I also think he couldn’t have done a better job picking his school. Coach Ed Cooley is a players-coach. Our AD, Robert G. Driscoll, Jr., has been Athletic Director of the Year. The assistant AD, Steve Napolillo, is incredible. Those guys have been a big part of Kris’ success too. Their leadership has been terrific. Providence was the right place for him, and I think more kids will look here to see what the school embodies and see what they did for Kris.”

Providence big man Ben Bentil, who starred alongside Dunn this past year and is testing the NBA waters, had nothing but excellent things to say about his former teammate.

“It was an unbelievable experience to play with him because he’s such a great player,” Bentil told Basketball Insiders. “When he made the decision to come back to school, I appreciated it a lot because I knew he could lead us and really make the whole team better. He’s such a great player and he makes sure that everybody eats and everybody succeeds. He is a team-first guy and I really appreciated having him as a teammate. I’ll always remember the memories from this season with him and I’ll cherish them forever.”

Dunn’s shooting, particularly from long range, is widely regarded as his biggest weakness. However, it’s important to note that he improved his shot each season he was at Providence and has worked extremely hard to raise his three-point percentage. It’s clear that his confidence in his shot grew each year he was in college. Now, he must expand his range to the NBA three-point line. While this is an area of his game that he needs to improve, many other point guards have entered the NBA with a jumper that needs work. For example, look at Kidd, Rondo, Wall and, most recently, Elfrid Payton – all of whom failed to match Dunn’s 37.2 percent from beyond the arc in any season of their college career.

And one thing that’s apparent when talking with Dunn is that he has an intense work ethic, suggesting that his shot will only continue to improve with time. Without any prompting during our interview, he talked about seeking out the help of his team’s veterans next year so he could maximize his potential.

“Whatever team I’m on, I’m just going to look for the veterans who can teach me the most and learn from them,” Dunn said. “Everything at the next level will be a learning experience for me and I want to gain as much knowledge as I can from the older guys because they’ve been in the league and around the game for so long.”

Dunn is one of those guys who just seems to “get it” and he has the potential to become a franchise cornerstone for whichever team drafts him in two months.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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