After exceeding expectations in his first season with the Chicago Bulls, Mike Dunleavy Jr. is being pegged as the starter at small forward going into the 2014-15 season.
Dunleavy played in every game last season, was highly consistent and a consummate pro. He averaged 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting 43 percent from the field and 38 percent from three. His third-point percentage was second on the team–only behind D.J. Augustin.
As a 13-year veteran, Dunleavy will be one of the elder statesmen on the team along with Kirk Hinrich and newly acquired Pau Gasol. There was a time when it was thought Dunleavy would be on his way out of town in order to create more cap space, but his ability to hit the three and move without the basketball will help the Bulls going forward.
Before joining the Bulls, Dunleavy was not known for his defensive presence but was quite a surprise when it came to his toughness and willingness to take charges. On a team loaded with defensive specialists, particularly Jimmy Butler, Dunleavy never had to guard elite scorers. Going into year two under Tom Thibodeau, Dunleavy’s comfort level on defense will certainly be more at ease.
Initially, when Dunleavy was signed prior to last season, he was brought in to play alongside Derrick Rose and assume a similar role that Kyle Korver played. This season, Dunleavy will get that opportunity and be able to space the floor when the former MVP returns.
Dunleavy projects to be more of a role player this season as opposed to last season when it was necessary for him to provide a larger offensive output on a team that struggled to score. Dunleavy’s 31.5 minutes per game will likely see a significant drop. With Rose returning and the additions of scorers such as Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, Dunleavy will be able to play more within himself.