Kris Dunn said all the right things this summer about Ricky Rubio’s status as starting point guard, “I think he knows the game very well and I can’t wait to play under him and learn a lot.”
Tom Thibodeau said all the right things about their relationship during the season, “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."
But anyone with a set of eyeballs and a clue about Thibodeau’s defensive emphasis knew the long, physical Dunn made supplanting Rubio ine
vitable. Ricky’s balky elbow only accelerated the process, giving Dunn the opening to show he’s as advertised when many draft pundits thought he might be the steal of the draft.
After inconsistent and often lethargic performances in the opening two games where the Wolves wasted huge leads in disappointing losses, Dunn took over the floor general duties and the upside for the Wolves future is obvious. The Wolves clicked on offense and smothered Memphis in a blow-out win. Then, in a narrow loss against Denver, their lapses were fewer and though Dunn sat out the 4th quarter, it was easy to see the upside and his emergence shows the Wolves just what they’ve been missing during the Rubio regime.
On defense, there’s no question Ricky plays hard every second. But that doesn’t make up for his lack of size and speed where he’s often overmatched by larger, quicker guards who create passing angles and lanes Rubio simply can’t control.
Dunn’s length and quickness led a Chris Paul-like five steals in just 29 minutes against the Grizzlies, and he followed that up with three more against Denver in the same amount of time. He doesn’t even know the other players yet, but as a student of the game, it’s going to quickly become a horror show for opposing point guards at Target Center.
“You’ve just got to watch film. You’ve got to know the other team’s personnel,” Dunn said. “You’ve got to understand who has the ball. You’ve got to understand who you’re guarding and when to help. It’s just things you have to pick up throughout the year.”
On offense where Ricky might draw occasional gasps from the crowd, his leadership can be unpredictable as his teammates can’t plan on getting the ball where and when they want it. Dunn may not wow with passes from behind-the-back while looking at the nacho stand, but his vision and steady hand was evident in an impressive seven assists in the opening quarter against Denver.
And there’s no comparing the shooting between the two. One can hear the arena holding its breath when Rubio lines up a three or long two. Even with all his work the past two seasons, he can still fail to draw iron. Dunn hit two of four from beyond the arc in his two starts, and it’s clear opposing defenses won’t be able to drape themselves on Big Kat with the greater outside threat Dunn poses.
With Rubio out indefinitely, and given his injury history, the future appears to be now for the Wolves rookie. And his coach obviously has placed a lot of trust in Dunn and has sky high expectations with a bit of tongue-in-cheek,
“He needs to continue to improve, learn, study, prepare and understand what your responsibilities are, what your job is, organize the team from a leadership position. Obviously unite, inspire the team, play unselfishly,organize us, play well defensively. Just a few things.”