Leave it to Tom Thibodeau to say he saw Kris Dunn's stellar improvement coming.
Last year as a rookie, Dunn averaged just 3.8 points in 17.1 minutes while playing for Thibodeau in Minnesota. To be fair, the Timberwolves still had veteran Ricky Rubio, who got most of the playing time.
Before Friday's game at the United Center, Thibodeau made a convincing argument as to why he thought Dunn would be better.
"I felt very strongly about Kris when we drafted him," Thibodeau said. "I won't share our conversation at the end of last year, but I felt he was going to have a great year this year. Based not only on the conversation, but the way he followed it up with his work prior to the trade.
"Kris is a very intelligent kid, he's a tough kid, stubborn in a good way and he was highly motivated. That was the intel we had gotten before we drafted him. The defensive part of it, he had that going in. The offensive part, he's put a lot of work into it and he's played well, very well."
Dunn was arguably the Bulls most valuable player when they went 14-7 from Dec. 8 through Jan. 15. Dunn did not play Friday, missing his ninth game with a concussion. The Bulls are 1-7 in the games he's sat out.
"He's as tough as they come. Anyone from Connecticut is going to be tough," Thibodeau said. "I like that a lot about him. You watched him play in college, you knew that. He's got a football background to him. He's a very dynamic, terrific athlete. He's not afraid. So that part is in him.
"I think the more times he goes through the league, the more he picks up. He's starting to learn the tricks of the trade. That's why I felt he would take off."
Vonleh waiting for chance:
Bulls newcomer Noah Vonleh was not active for Friday's game, but coach Fred Hoiberg suggested the former Indiana Hoosiers star would get a chance to play this season.
"I like Noah, I always have," Hoiberg said. "He's got a great body, he's athletic, he was raining in 3s against us last week in Portland, so he's a guy that does have a good skill set. He's a guy that absolutely (we'll) get a free look at him and see what he's got. So we'll try to integrate him as quickly as possible."
The 6-9 Vonleh went 2-for-4 from 3-point land and scored 6 points against the Bulls on Feb. 1. The Bulls acquired the No. 9 pick of the 2014 draft on Thursday in what was essentially a salary dump by the Blazers.
Butler grows as leader:
Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau on what the addition of former Bulls all-star Jimmy Butler has meant to his team:
"He just changed everything," he said. "It's interesting because I think what he did here was phenomenal to grow the way he did (with the Bulls). Then I was away from him for two years, but just seeing the growth in him in terms of leadership, it sort of reminds me of the way Luol (Deng) was with him."
So now Butler is the mentor for younger Timberwolves like Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
"He's taken the younger guys and really has done a great job with them," Thibodeau said. "KAT and Wig, they're going through the things that Jimmy just went through. I think Jimmy learned a lot from that experience and he's sharing that with these guys."
As expected, the Bulls officially released guard Tony Allen, who came over from New Orleans as part of the Nikola Mirotic trade. Allen hasn't played since Dec. 1 due to a leg injury, but could latch on with a playoff contender eventually