Free agency officially started 6 p.m. Friday, but by Saturday morning, the Hawks already had added two players who will significantly improve their roster as they aim to make the playoffs in the 2020-21 season.
On Friday night, they added Danilo Gallinari, an experienced veteran whose 3-point shooting will shore up the offense (they were the worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA last season at 33.3%). On Saturday morning, they agreed to terms with Chicago Bulls guard Kris Dunn, the AJC has confirmed, who is sure to give them a boost on defense. It’s a two-year, $10 million deal, with a player option on the second year. ESPN first reported the move.
Improving the team’s 3-point shooting, as well as team defense, were both absolutely necessary if the Hawks wanted to take a step forward this season. They went 20-47 last season, but feel they’re nearing the end of their rebuild, as their young players gain more experience and as they have the most cap space in the league to add more talent via trades/free agency.
Although Trae Young is an offensive marvel, he ranked last in the league in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus stat at minus-6.17. Dunn, 26, is one of the best guard defenders in the league and figures to balance out the backcourt with his defensive prowess and intensity. From a fit standpoint, this move makes plenty of sense – the Hawks had the third-worst defensive rating last season (114.4), and tended to try and outscore opponents instead of getting stops.
This season, the Hawks may end up shuffling their backcourt a bit. Dunn could certainly play alongside Young (who played 35.3 minutes per game last season), but the Hawks may still want to find a go-to secondary ball-handler and scorer. They may look to add that, or they may designate wing Kevin Huerter for that role, who is known as a 3-point shooter, but successfully filled in for Young at point guard several times last season. The Hawks are high on Huerter’s ability to facilitate, as well as his shooting (knee and shoulder injuries limited him for the first half of last year). Cam Reddish also may grow as a ballhandler and playmaker, but we didn’t see too much of that in his rookie season.
Dunn (6-foot-3, 205 pounds, 6-9 wingspan) has spent the past three years with the Bulls and averaged 10.7 points, 5.1 assists, four rebounds and 1.8 steals over the span of his career there. He’s not known as a scorer, but as a long, disruptive defender (particularly an on-ball defender) who makes life difficult for opposing ball-handlers.
Last season with Chicago, in a smaller role than he had the previous two seasons, Dunn averaged 7.3 points, 3.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds and two steals in 24.9 minutes per game, starting 32 of 59 games. He shot a career-high 35.4% from 3-point range in 2018 but regressed to 25.9% in 2019.