Player review: Mike Dunleavy
Stats: 19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg
Stats/36: 19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg
How did he surprise?
Where to start? How about, 36. Mike Dunleavy scoreed 36 points on 5 separate occasions during the 2007-08 season, four of those efforts were between February 29 and April 16. Dunleavy's incredible finish to the season, really covering the final two months of the season, helped produce the best numbers of his career. His 19.1 scoring average is by far his best to date (next best was 13.4 in '04-05 season) and is even more impressive when you consider that the injuries to Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley thrust Dun into sharing the role of number one scoring option with Danny Granger. Sure he had more opportunities to score but opposing defenses also had the ability to focus their efforts on stopping him and most nights they couldn't.
Dunleavy ended up taking a big stride forward in his career. His ability to handle the ball, pass the ball and move without the ball allowed him to shine in Jim O'Brien's up-tempo system. Dun's production seemed to continually pick up steam as the season went along until he was firing on all cylinders in March. By that time he was even valuable late in games, helping the Pacers close out wins by knocking down shots or free throws with the game still in the balance.
Another area Dunleavy surprised me was with his toughness. It has been fashionable over the past couple of years to rail on Dun for being soft and weak. Maybe it's his physique or the lavish Duke pedigree. Maybe it's the lack of hops when trying to finish in the lane, I don't know. (By the end of the year Dun was playing so well I joked that God limited Dun's vertical jump because it just wouldn't be fair to everyone else). Whatever the reasons, they're all bogus and Mike has the scars to prove it, literally. Multiple times Dunleavy left the court after a blow to the face left him with blood flowing. Inevitably, he'd get stitched up and jump right back in the fray. During a home game in March against Seattle, Dun left the game with a sprained ankle only to return and finish with 32 points. That ankle lingered for at least a few games if not the remainder of the season, but you'd never know it from the effort and production Dunleavy turned out.
Oh, and Dunleavy, excuse me, DUNLEEEVAY inspired the best YouTube video on the team, as well. Actually, it's from back in his Golden State days, but still fun nonetheless.
How did he disappoint?
Despite his great success, Mike still flashed some inconsistency. There are just nights where he doesn't have the stroke going or just kind of disappears within the flow of the game. This isn't a big disappointment since the interval between these type of games continued to expand as the season played out. In fact, I wouldn't even classify his inconsistency as a concern heading into next season.
Defensively, Dunleavy continues to struggle. He can get caught up in some bad matchups at shooting guard or small forward. The Pacers as a team struggled to execute Dick Harter's defensive scheme and Dun was one of a few other players unable to make up for the breakdowns in execution. To Dunleavy's credit, he was often trying to direct teammates and appeared to know what he needed to do within the system. He just needs to rely on the other four players on the court to rotate and fill their role to be effective.
Dunleavy certainly played up to his cap number last year and also turned some heads around the league. However, with three more years ($9, $9.78, and $10.5 mil) on his contract, it would take just the right team to want to deal for Dun. That's fine with me, since his effort last year combined with Danny Granger has really shored up the wing play for the Pacers. It's allowed the team to focus on finding point guard and/or front court help in the offseason and draft in particular.
There's no doubt, Dun takes a pounding so he could always use some more bulk to help limit the impact. More importantly Mike should continue working and developing his game to build on the success he had last year. He needs to limit the clunker games and expect great things from himself and his teammates every night to truly emerge as a team leader for the Pacers.