Every time I want to dismiss Jerian Grant as a useless player, he puts up a huge performance in the next game. Every time I conclude that Kris Dunn will never live up to his draft hype, he’ll start abusing defenders.
The fight for starting point guard is complicated by both players’ inconsistency, leaving Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls in a tough spot. As the season wears on, I believe the battle will be won by the more consistent player.
Just how even is the battle?
When analyzing the pair, statistics don’t clearly favor one or the other, which provides for a tough lineup decision.
First off, Dunn and Grant are separated by just 0.2 minutes per game, so the following stats are quality comparisons. Through 18 games, Grant has averaged 9.3 points per game on 40.7% shooting, along with an impressive 5.1 assists per game. Dunn stacks up with 10.6 PPG, 39.4% shooting, and 3.9 APG.
These numbers back up what we knew about each athlete all along: Dunn is a superior scorer, while Grant is a better distributor. However, the difference in these strong suits isn’t all that much. 10.6 to 9.3 PPG and 5.1 to 3.9 APG virtually cancels out in value.
What about the complementary parts of their games? Dunn shoots three-pointers at a 35.5% clip, while Grant only hits 31.1% of his shots from beyond the arc. Along with his superior ability to attack the basket, Dunn’s shooting ability stretches the defense more than Grant, appearing to give him a slight edge offensively. Not so fast, though. What Grant lacks in variety, he makes up for in security: he averages just 1.6 turnovers per game to Dunn’s 3.3 TPG mark.
While Dunn is a better defender, he’s only been a little better than Grant. Hell, that’s probably cancelled out by Grant’s slightly better free throw shooting.
Even the argument that “Dunn is a developing, recent top pick so he’s entitled to start” falls flat. Don’t forget that Grant is only 1.5 years older, was a top-20 selection himself, and has demonstrated both potential and improvement in his three-year career.
In the end, it’s very hard to choose between these two players. Both do certain things well, but despite their differences, they definitely have one thing in common: inconsistency.
After three solid nights from the field, Kris Dunn earned his first ever start in a Bulls uniform on November 15 against the Thunder. He promptly shot 1-11 on the night. In his next two contests, he dropped 22 and 17 points respectively, even leading Chicago to a win over Charlotte. Since being re-granted the starting position after those two performances, Dunn has gone 11-40 from the field with 15 turnovers in four games. Sigh.
As for Grant, it’s the same story. Early in the season, he recorded three consecutive games with double-digit points and 5+ assists. Over his next six games, Grant went 10-41 from the field. Shall I continue? I shall. When Hoiberg inserted Dunn into the starting lineup against the Lakers, the good/bad switch must have flipped in Grant’s brain. While, as previously mentioned, Dunn has struggled, Grant has caught fire. Against the Bulls’s most recent opponents, Golden State and Miami, he dropped 45 points combined.
More than anything, this Bulls team could use a dependable player to bring up the ball. Often the offense seems to be in disarray, and Fred Hoiberg can’t count on his ball handlers to improve things on any regular basis. If Dunn or Grant don’t cut down on the not-so-rare poor games, the offense will continue to lack cohesiveness. How can team chemistry or rhythm progress if every other game the opponent might as well be defending four players?
When Zach LaVine returns, I believe he should replace Justin Holiday at shooting guard. In my opinion, Holiday’s awful field goal percentage disqualifies him from remaining at shooting guard while LaVine takes over point. Even if that scenario comes to reality and Hoiberg sits Dunn/Grant, the minutes battle still remains between the two.
Yes, LaVine is an emerging star, but his potential will be amplified if he has a capable backcourt partner. A player who performs adequately most nights will develop chemistry much better with LaVine than one who is always up-and-down. If one of Dunn/Grant blossoms into a consistently solid guard, imagine the nightmare for defenders when they can’t just focus on a single quality ball-handler in LaVine.
Considering both guards are so young, consistency also bodes well for their individual futures. If they can’t find any sort of a groove, their confidence in themselves will dip, and their development will be hindered. In a rebuild, the Bulls need confident, gradually maturing young players.
The question remains: Will Grant or Dunn ever find their footing in the NBA? Believe it or not, I think they will. We’re still less than a quarter through the season, and both guys are seeing a huge increase in minutes this season. Eventually, I think at least one will settle in, and the sooner the better, because Zach LaVine will be ready in December. As fans, it’s time to stop obsessing over Dunn and Grant’s awesome and awful showings, and instead start waiting for some consistency.