Mike Dunleavy didn’t come to the Chicago Bulls with the expectations of becoming a starter, but, with the departure of Luol Deng, that’s exactly what he got. Not only did he thrive in that position, but he finally found himself on a winning team after 11 disappointing seasons.
Pre All-Star Break
Dunleavy played in all 52 games prior to the All-Star break and started 31 of those games. At first, though, Dunleavy was merely a backup to Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng. His first start came on Nov. 21 in a 97-87 loss to the Denver Nuggets, as Butler was sidelined with turf toe injury. That then led to two more starts following his first one.
He started a handful of other games afterwards as well, but it wasn’t until Deng was traded that Dunleavy earned a spot in the starting lineup.
Before Deng’s trade, Dunleavy started 11 of the 32 games. He averaged 28.2 minutes per game, 10.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He also shot 45.5 percent from the field, 39.3 percent on threes and 83.0 percent on free throws. Strangely enough, though, Dunleavy’s numbers didn’t suffer a drastic change once Deng was gone. He averaged 11.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 31.4 minutes of playing time.
Post All-Star Break
As the regular season came to a close, head coach Tom Thibodeau relied on a seven-man rotation. The starting lineup of Boozer, Butler, Dunleavy, Hinrich and Noah combined with the two-man bench unit of D.J. Augustin and Taj Gibson took nearly all of the playing time while Nazr Mohammed and Tony Snell received a small portion of playing time, if any at all.
This rotation gave Dunleavy more playing time, but, it doesn’t quite seem that way when looking at his average of 35.1 minutes. Instead of having his playing time fluctuate game to game, Dunleavy received more consistent minutes after All-Star break. Of the 30 games, he only played less than half an hour in three of them. In the rest of the games, he received at least 30 minutes on the hardwood. Sometimes he played 40-plus minutes.
The more consistent playing time did result in more Dunleavy being more productive, but it also resulted in less efficiency. He averaged 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 37.9 percent on threes. His 91.2 free throw percentage was significantly better than that of his 81.3 percent from before the All-Star break, though.
Dunleavy was one of two Bulls players (Gibson being the other) who had a 30-point game in the postseason. He led Chicago with a season-high 35 points off of 12-for-19 shooting in its lone 100-97 win over the Washington Wizards on April 25. Of those 19 attempts, 10 of them were threes, and he connected on 8 of them. Along with that, he went 3-of-4 at the charity stripe and added five rebounds and three assists.
Throughout the five-game series, he averaged 13.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 32.6 minutes of action. He also shot 47.2 percent from the field (third best behind Gibson and Noah) and 46.2 percent from downtown (best on the team). Dunleavy’s 66 total points in the playoffs was also third best.
There were some games in which Dunleavy performed better, but it was the 111-87 victory the Bulls achieved over the Houston Rockets on March 13 that stands out. It even earned him our Player of the Week honor that week,
It was during that game Dunleavy was inadvertently elbowed in the right eye while defending a driving Chandler Parsons. He left the game to receive 10 stitches, but he came back in the second half and had an 18-point third quarter. He hadn’t scored until after his return, and he ended the game with 21 points after shooting 8-for-15 from the field, 4-of-6 on 3-pointers and 1-for-1 at the charity stripe. He also added seven rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Dunleavy had his second worst shooting night of the season during Chicago’s 91-74 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on March 28. He attempted nine shots in 32:24, but he was only able to connect on one of them, giving him a field goal percentage of 11.1 percent. He ended the night with two points, one rebound, an assist and a pair of steals.
In his first season in Chicago, Dunleavy ended up taking on more than he was expected to. He was simply supposed to be a veteran presence who would backup the two and three positions as necessary. But then Deng was traded, so he fulfilled the starting small forward spot, and he was able to play and produce consistently without much problems, all at age 33, in his 12th NBA season.
His 929 total points was fourth on the team behind Gibson, Boozer and Noah. Along with that, Dunleavy’s 38.0 percent shooting on threes is second behind Augustin’s 41.1 percent (excluding Cartier Martin, who only played significant minutes in one of his six games), and he was also only one of two players to play in all 82 regular season games (the other being Gibson).
As a whole, Dunleavy did well in his first season as a Bull. For the regular season, he averaged 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting 43.0 percent on field goals and 85.4 percent on free throws. He just did a solid job acting as the team’s shooter and stepping up when asked to do so.
Final Grade: B+