When the Minnesota Timberwolves selected point guard Kris Dunn with the fifth pick in the 2016 NBA draft, many fans thought he would eventually take over the duties as starting point guard. However, Dunn’s play in his rookie season hasn’t impressed and incumbent starting point guard Ricky Rubio has drastically improved. Rubio has most likely solidified his role as the Timberwolves starting point guard and has now put the Timberwolves coaching staff and front office in a predicament.
How do the Timberwolves utilize both Rubio and Dunn? Can they coexist on the same team? Based on their respective strengths, there is no reason Rubio and Dunn both can’t thrive on the same team. In fact, Rubio and Dunn could eventually complement one another when featured in lineups together. Below is a breakdown of how and why the pair of Rubio and Dunn could be successfully utilized alongside one another in future lineups.
Since the All-Star break, Rubio has stepped up and looked like one of the best point guards in the league on some nights. Rubio has consistently logged high assist totals and shown more confidence in his shot. The table below compares Rubio’s statistics to similar point guards in the NBA over the last 16 games.
While 2016 might be a year to remember for Rubio, it is likely a year Dunn will want to forget. In Dunn’s 16.9 minutes per game, he is averaging less than four points shooting 37.8 percent from the floor.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau has featured Rubio and Dunn playing alongside one another in recent games, but the results haven’t been encouraging. The Timberwolves are -14 while Rubio and Dunn are on the floor together. However, that doesn’t mean the pairing can’t work in the future. In fact, the Houston Rockets have experienced success with two point guards in the starting lineup.
Guards James Harden and Patrick Beverley both start for the Houston Rockets and have led their team to a 54-27 record, third in the Western Conference. Beverley draws the more challenging assignment defensively, allowing Harden to focus on what he does best; create for himself and his teammates offensively. This method works for Harden as he is setting career highs in points and assists averaging 29.1 and 11.2 respectively.
Starting two point guards is a formula that could one day work for the Timberwolves. Rubio does not have the scoring ability of Harden, but he is a more efficient distributor of the basketball and doesn’t turn the ball over nearly as much. See the table below for a comparison.
|Player||AST/TO Ratio||AST. per 48 min||TO per game|
While Dunn’s production might not be what Timberwolves fans had hoped for, his effort on the defensive side of the floor stands out. Dunn averages 2.3 deflections per game, which ranks him sixth among players averaging less than 25 minutes. Dunn consistently out hustles players for loose balls and is quick to help on defensive rotations.
Dunn shows some promise as a defender but will need to become a threat to score the basketball to be featured in lineups that include Rubio. Beverley can play alongside Harden successfully because he drastically improved as a shooter. In catch-and-shoot situations, Beverly shoots 40 percent from the three-point line. Dunn has work to do, as he shoots 24 percent in his three point catch-and-shoot situations.
If Dunn can become an above average defender and consistently hit open jump shots, Rubio can focus on his real strength; creating for his teammates offensively. Under these circumstances, the duo of Rubio and Dunn would be a great pairing for the Timberwolves young core of small forward Andrew Wiggins, center Karl-Anthony Towns and shooting guard Zach LaVine.
Logan Metzger is a contributor to HowlinTwolf.com. Follow him on Twitter:@loganmetzger33