Kris Dunn wanted Minnesota and that’s exactly what he got.
The Minnesota Timberwolves selected the hard-nosed Providence point guard with the fifth overall pick Thursday night. And after several hours of trade rumors and phone calls, it appears that Dunn is staying put to team with Tom Thibodeau just as he had hoped.
”I’ve got to buy a lot of jackets, but there’s a very young talented group there,” Dunn said on Thursday night, before mentioning the Wolves’ promising core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. ”There’s so much you could go on about the Timberwolves. Thibs being the coach and me being a defensive guy, I can’t wait to play under him.”
The Timberwolves went into the night thinking Dunn would be gone before they selected at No. 5, and Philadelphia and Chicago were among the teams that tried feverishly to trade ahead of Minnesota to get him.
But the Boston Celtics made a surprising choice of Cal’s Jaylen Brown at No. 3 and Phoenix chose Dragan Bender fourth, allowing Dunn to fall right into the Timberwolves’ lap. Dunn was a two-time Big East player of the year at Providence. In his junior season last year, he averaged 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.5 steals.
”He innately has a lot of toughness,” Thibodeau said.
Once they came on the clock, general manager Scott Layden said the phone started ringing off the hook with trade offers for Dunn.
”When you’re in the war room and you make the pick and see how much attention comes from other teams and how much activity there is before you make the pick and when you make the pick, it gives you some idea how he was valued throughout the league,” Layden said.
The 76ers offered the Timberwolves Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington and the Nos. 24 and 26 picks for Dunn, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the teams were not publicly discussing trade proposals.
The Sixers offered the same package to Boston at No. 3 to try to pair Dunn with No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, and the Wolves were also looking at Chicago’s Jimmy Butler. But the night came and went without a deal, and Thibodeau was clearly pleased to have landed a player he coveted from the start.
”He’s gotten better each year,” Thibodeau said. ”He can execute a pick-and-roll. He can make plays. He can hit the 3. He plays great defenses. He plays for the team. He plays to win. Those are some of the things we’re looking for.”
Dunn said the prospect of the Timberwolves trading him away ”never even crossed my mind. Not once.”
”There is a lot of chatter on draft night,” Thibodeau said. ”You’re studying all the options. Some of them are real, some aren’t. But we felt good about it.”
Dunn said before the draft he would love to play for Thibodeau, believing their hard-working personalities would mesh well on a team that many believe is on the rise in the Western Conference.
Dunn and Towns are both represented by CAA and spoke throughout the pre-draft process.
Taking a point guard fifth overall immediately led to questions about Ricky Rubio’s future in Minnesota. Rubio has spent five years with the Timberwolves and is coming off of his best season as a pro. Thibodeau insisted that the 6-foot-4 Dunn could play with Rubio to form an imposing defensive backcourt.
”They have good size, they have good toughness,” Thibodeau said. ”It’s a different look. I think you’re seeing more and more of that now where you have two point guards on the floor. They’re both capable of playing off each other.”
Dunn said he would have no problem playing behind Rubio, and his presence would be a big upgrade for a team that struggled to find a capable backup at point guard last season. Rookie Tyus Jones wasn’t quite physically ready for the job and LaVine proved to be much more comfortable at shooting guard.
”I can’t wait,” Dunn said. ”We’re both pass-first point guards and he’s very good at getting guys involved. I think he knows the game very well and I can’t wait to play under him and learn a lot and just come in and work hard.”