Bulls must decide if Dunn's defense outweighs injury history

Fifth in a series

The argument for the Bulls moving on from guard Kris Dunn is a simple one:

52, 46, 51.

Those are the number of games Dunn has played in three seasons since joining the Bulls. Maybe it's conceivable he could recover from a knee sprain and play in more if the current NBA season resumes. The point is, no player is very helpful when sidelined by injury.

The 6-foot-4 guard will be a restricted free agent this summer, which means he can entertain interest from other teams and the Bulls have the right to match any offer sheet. It's possible the number of games missed has lowered Dunn's value around the league.

The reasons for the Bulls keeping Dunn run longer than three numbers. Dunn made a good case for being an all-defensive team candidate when he was on the floor this season. He didn't always shut down the player he was guarding, but he was usually able to force a poor shooting night. He also ranked second in the league in steals with 2.0 per game.

When Dunn was playing well at midseason, it was easy to imagine him playing a role similar to the Clippers' Patrick Beverley or Boston's Marcus Smart - both starting point guards on good teams who typically make a greater impact on defense than offense.

Dunn also seemed to spark the Bulls emotionally this season. On a team full of nice guys, Dunn was willing to get a little bit nasty, refusing to back down from any opponent. The Bulls usually needed that example as a spark.

The fact that Dunn was even on the roster at the start of last season was surprising. The Bulls drafted Coby White as a point guard, then added Tomas Satoransky in free agency, and re-signed Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaq Harrison. It seemed like the Bulls had already made the decision to find Dunn a new home.

They tried, but couldn't find a suitable deal, so Dunn began the season as a reserve. Injuries to Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison forced Dunn into the starting lineup on Nov. 30, and he made a clear difference.

One of the many flaws in the Bulls' roster was at 6-feet-7 Satoransky isn't equipped to defend point guards. Zach LaVine isn't a top-level defender, so the Bulls needed someone to take on the toughest defensive matchup each night and that is Dunn's specialty. Satoransky's efficiency took a big jump after Dunn became a starter.

Dunn's offense continued to be a question mark. His overall field-goal percentage reached a career-high at .444, but his 3-point percentage was a career-low .259. Maybe one reason for optimism is his 3-point shooting improved as the season progressed.

The Bulls tried to implement an offensive system that focused on layups and 3-pointers, and de-emphasized everything in between. Dunn showed early in his Bulls career he's at his best when attacking the basket, using quick starts, stops and turnarounds to create room for short jumpers.

It can be an effective style, but at the 3-point line, opposing teams often sagged off Dunn and dared him to shoot, which can ruin the spacing on offense.

While an argument can be made that Dunn was the most valuable Bulls player when healthy, the injury history limits his value.

If interest around the league is limited, the Bulls might be able to re-sign Dunn to a low-risk deal. If he gets an offer sheet, matching won't be automatic.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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