LAS VEGAS -- He missed the jumper. It doesn't matter what happened leading up to that point. All that matters is that Minnesota Timberwolves rookie point guard Kris Dunn came up short on his shot that skipped over the near side of the iron and caromed long. That's how he felt after his Las Vegas Summer League debut. That's how Wolves' assistant coach Ryan Saunders felt about the shot. That's how the highlight truthers of the internet will categorize the play.
In a summer session game that is ultimately meaningless but still shines a light on the young players looking to make a name for themselves, Dunn was building toward that highlight. He was relentless in attacking the Denver Nuggets pro guards moonlighting on the summer squad. He threw an inside-out dribble move to shake a big man in a pick-and-roll before getting fouled as he tried to dunk on Jakarr Sampson helping from the weak side.
The crowd was on the edge of their seats, watching Dunn look to punctuate a successful debut in which he scored 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting. He forced a switch to finish the job against Sampson. Normally, getting a switch from Jimmer Fredette to Jakarr Sampson would be a mistake for a player. You want Jimmer to guard you, but Dunn just wants a victim in front of him. It doesn't matter who it is.
Dunn hesitated with a small inside-out move before rolling right into a right-to-left dance step, and from there it was downright evil what he did to Sampson, who wound up stumbling to the floor like he was auditioning for a Life Alert commercial via one of the filthiest crossovers we've seen in some time.
Problem is, as you can see in the clip, the play wasn't over after the death shake, and Dunn couldn't hit the baseline jumper to punctuate the highlight. The internet still went wild. The Nuggets bench could hardly contain itself in the wake of their teammate's destruction. The arena still buzzed. But the Wolves rookie holds himself to a different standard, and he couldn't accept that moment as complete.
"I missed the jumper, so it doesn't even matter," Dunn said. "[That double crossover move] is [God] Shammgod. He trained me so that's a little bit of Shammgod."
Basketball nerds will light up at the mention of Shammgod's name. He's a street-ball legend, famous for his malicious dribbling ability and affinity for making defenders look foolish. Like Dunn, he's a former Providence point guard, and in fact he coached Dunn, and another NBA player Bryce Cotton, when he joined Ed Cooley's staff for the Friars. But the pressures that may have faced Shammgod in his 20-game NBA career and the pressures that accompany the fringe career of Cotton are nothing in comparison to what Dunn will face as the fifth pick in the draft.
Dunn was the centerpiece of a lot of questions around draft time. Would the Celtics take him at No. 3 despite the presence of Isaiah Thomas? Would somebody draft him merely to add him to a trade package for Chicago's Jimmy Butler? Now the question is, how long to the Wolves wait to move Ricky Rubio (which seems inevitable at this point) and just officially hand the offense over to Dunn?
You can't read too much into a Summer League performance because, well, it's Summer League. Teams and players will adjust to him. make him add to his game. But you can't deny the way Dunn looked in his debut either. A couple of scouts and people around the NBA compared him to John Wall -- whom Saunders coached in Washington -- for the way he attacks dribbling downhill. He doesn't have the quickness of Wall but he has a better jumper.
"For a lottery pick to come out, score like that, and look that comfortable, I felt extremely good about it," Saunders said. "That's one of the attributes that Kris has that makes him fit in with the Wolves. We like how intense he is and his approach."
Saunders isn't concerned necessarily with trying to find a balance between Dunn's passing and scoring; he just wants him to make the right read. If the angle is there to drive, attack it ferociously. If the defender is worried about the drive and sags off, take the jumper and show it should be respected to open up the drive later on. If the help defense rotates over and tags Dunn in the process to cut him off, find the open man.
It showed a glimpse of what the Wolves can expect moving forward. Wolves franchise player Karl-Anthony Towns played with Dunn in high school, so he knows just how dedicated and intense he can be. Las Vegas quickly discovered the same as Dunn not only used quickness and a sick handle to attack, but also reminded defenders that he's strong enough to punish you if you body him.
In an isolation play against No. 7 overall pick Jamal Murray, Dunn attacked right into his chest, bumped the 19-year old off position, and then finished with a short jumper over him. After the bucket dropped, Dunn looked right at Murray and flexed as he skipped backwards up the floor.
It wasn't quite as sizzling a highlight as the double crossover that dropped Sampson, but it was another moment in which Dunn reminded everyone that he's going to be a problem.
"I liked it, but the shot didn't go in, right?" Saunders joked when asked about Dunn's big crossover moment. "I like the shot to go in."
Next time, it probably will.