By Adam Finkelstein
Everyone loves to play the comparison game, especially when it comes to the NBA Draft. This year is no different as we’ve seen Ben Simmons be compared to Lebron James, Brandon Ingram to Kevin Durant and Kris Dunn to John Wall.
But if recent NBA Draft history has taught us anything, it’s that the comparison game typically ends up being rooted far more in fantasy than reality.
The comparisons are typically far too grandiose – Simmons is an athletic forward with a unique ability to pass the ball and facilitate for his teammates, and so he is compared to arguably the best athletic passing forward who has ever played the game in Lebron James.
Does Simmons have a chance to become the type of player that James is? Not to the same extent, no, and yet that is the expectation that these faulty comparisons have created for most casual fans.
The concern is the same for Kris Dunn. Does he have some of the same abilities, albeit on a lesser scale, as Wall? Yes, he does. He has good size and length for the position and very unique speed with the ball in his hands. But Wall was also a top five point guard in the NBA by the time he was 24 years old and is arguably the second most athletic point guard in the NBA today behind Russell Westbrook (a player many consider to be the most athletic point guard of all time).
Is Dunn soon to be on that same level? Maybe not, but that shouldn’t be the expectation either.
The best comparisons are often modest, multi-faceted ones that avoid generational talents like James and Durant unless in the most unique of cases. For Simmons, it’s much more accurate to say he has a skill set similar to Lamar Odom with a body type reminiscent of Michael Beasley. Now, that might not sell as many tickets for whichever teams earns the number one pick in this year’s lottery, but it does provide a much more realistic portrayal of Simmons’ ability and consequent project of his impact.
With Dunn, you can see glimpses of a variety of current and former NBA players, some of them elite and some of them not, but all of them very successful and productive pros. The Wall comparisons are well documented and every once in a while there is admittedly something reminiscent of Dwyane Wade in a Marquette uniform when you watch the way Dunn moves to slash through the lane or fly around the court to make a play defensively.
Statistically speaking, one of the best comparisons was made by NJIT head coach Jim Engles after watching Dunn flirt with a quadruple-double earlier this season.
“I’m speechless. I’ve seen a lot of players up close. He has Rajon Rondo talent,” Engles told SNY.TV. “He can get a lot better offensively, which is crazy to say.”
Who does Dunn watch?
At 6-foot-1, Rondo is considerably shorter than Dunn but his incredible 6-foot-9 wingspan is identical. Rondo has extremely high assist percentages and steal percentages as well as a defensive rebounding rate which is atypically high for a point guard. Dunn thrives in those three areas as well and is even on pace to lead the country in assist percentage for the second straight year. Does he have the same massive hands that guarantee him amazing control of the basketball or the sheer creativity that Rondo does delivering balls? Maybe not, but he’s not nearly as controversial a personality either.
If not Rondo, what about his old coach? At 6-foot-4 Doc Rivers was a big point guard who had speed and athleticism alike, if not quite the same explosiveness to his floor game that Dunn has. He played in the NBA for 13 seasons and while he scored in double figures in 8 of those years he was perhaps best known for his ability to make plays for others (he averaged 10 assists per game in 86-87), lock down on the defensive end and come up with steals. If that doesn’t sound familiar enough, go into YouTube and you’ll find even their body types are comparable.
A more recent comparison may be someone like Jrue Holiday. Physically, both he and Dunn are big lead guards at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds (Dunn is slightly longer). Holiday was an explosive athlete coming out of UCLA but also very turnover prone and not an especially good perimeter shooter. He’s consistently improved both areas of his game over the years and has turned himself into a three-point shooter who is admittedly selective but nonetheless able to convert in the high 30’s on an annual basis. He earned All-Star honors early in his career with the 76ers before the Pelicans brought him to New Orleans to pair with Anthony Davis. Unfortunately, injuries have eroded some of his explosiveness but his prototype is still a very realistic one for Dunn.
Dunn isn’t a clone for any of these guys but you can see bits and pieces of each of them in what he brings to the floor every night and, ultimately, in who he might become down the road in the NBA. Is he going to end up being the next Dwyane Wade or John Wall? Probably not, but a cross between Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday and Doc Rivers wouldn’t be so bad either.