Though he was viewed as a minor asset in Chicago’s draft day blockbuster trade of Jimmy Butler, Kris Dunn has become one of the most important players on the Bulls’ lineup. With Dunn missing the team’s last five games due to a concussion, Chicago has lost four straight.

Before Dunn suffered an awkward fall in a close loss to Golden State, Chicago had won three straight and were beginning to see how well Dunn meshed with Zach LaVine. After a 110-96 blowout loss to the Bucks Sunday afternoon, head coach Fred Hoiberg emphasized the importance of Dunn to the offense.

“We miss Kris. We’re a much better team when we get the ball up the floor quickly, and Kris is our best pace guard,” Hoiberg said.

Without Dunn’s ability to control the offense, Chicago has to depend heavily on a guy who has recently returned from an ACL injury. In his eight games back from injury, Zach Lavine’s slow shooting start is currently overshadowing his return. He’s shooting 36 percent from the field and 32% from three-point territory, averaging about 13 shot attempts per game.

“I’ve just got to make shots,” LaVine said. “It’s frustrating. I put a lot of work into it. I had a lot of in-and-outs and really makable layups. Obviously, I have to do better. I’ve got to be a closing pitcher. You’ve got to get over that late, walk-off home run. I have all the confidence in the world in my game.”

Dunn’s case as the best offensive player on the team has only gotten stronger in his absence, and his teammates have been tasked to carry his offensive duties.

The offense for the past four games has been lifeless and ineffective. Teams are averaging 116 points on 47 percent shooting from the field in that span.

After the loss to Milwaukee, Hoiberg was adamant on his team improving upon their weaknesses.

“We’re going to have a hell of a practice (Monday). We’re going to have a training-camp-type practice. We have to get our competitive edge and spirit back. We’re going to go like hell.”

Dunn’s injury has been a real hit for the Bulls, who’s currently expected to have the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft. The expectation for this team prior to the beginning of the season was a No. 1 pick and some horrible basketball. It’s only a matter of time before Lavine is shut down for the season, hopefully meaning progress towards a higher pick. Despite the lost season, however, this year serves as Dunn’s case for a long-tern spot on Chicago’s roster.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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