Northwest Notes: Dunn, George, Wallace, Wolves

The Jazz are 12-3 in their past 15 games, establishing themselves as one of the hottest teams in the league. Since mid-December, they rank top 15 in offensive and defensive rating, and a huge part of their recent surge is the point guard play of Kris Dunn, writes John Coon of the Associated Press.

Utah is 13-4 on the season with Dunn starting, and he’s averaging 4.8 points, 6.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks in 21.8 minutes during this recent stretch.

Kris Dunn’s voice is more prominent now because his role is different,” head coach coach Will Hardy said. “Kris has always talked a lot. He’s always been a great presence in our locker room and a great presence at practice with our team. But now that he’s starting, his voice is heard in a different way and at different times.

After being selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft by the Timberwolves, he was part of the deal that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. Dunn struggled with injuries in Chicago and then later Atlanta before he was waived and out of the league. The Jazz signed him to a pair of 10-day deals last season and he impressed. However, he wasn’t immediately given the reins to the point guard position over the offseason and his role fluctuated to begin the year. Now, it’s clear his patience is paying off for both him and the team.

I’ll be doing myself a disservice and the team a disservice if I try to go out there and try to go get 20,” Dunn said. “I got to play my role and I understand my role and I have no problem playing it. Go out there and guard and distribute the ball. The main thing is keeping that energy alive.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz rookie Keyonte George is another major factor in Utah’s recent success, averaging 11.1 points and 4.4 assists on the season. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor catches up with George, writing that while his flashes have been impressive, the former Baylor guard recognizes he has room to improve, particularly with his finishing. “I’m already adjusted to the speed of the game. The reads are slowing down for me,” George said. “So it’s just about now just getting stronger and continuing to learn, continuing to slow the game down for me. So when I’m in between those lines, it is patterns.
  • Thunder wing Luguentz Dort missed Oklahoma City’s Thursday matchup with Utah due to an illness, and rookie guard Cason Wallace started in his place (Twitter link via Bally Sports Oklahoma’s Nick Gallo). Wallace finished that game with a career-high 16 points, making six of his seven shot attempts in his seventh career start. “He’s not flinching. He’s really been like that from the getgo,” head coach Mark Daigneault said (Twitter link via Oklahoman Sports’ Joel Lorenzi).
  • After Thursday’s victory over the Grizzlies, the Timberwolves are 30-11, atop the Western Conference standings and on pace for what would be the organization’s first-ever 60-win season. The Wolves have the best defensive rating in the league and they’ll need to keep up that tempo if they want to crack the 60-win club, writes Star Tribune’s Chris Hine. Hine explains Minnesota also needs to continue to improve on offense in order to help their chances of emerging as a true contender.
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