When Danny Ainge was trying to build up championship-caliber teams in Boston, there was a lot of roster turnover as the team looked for stars to build around.

“Kris gives our team a swagger. Kris talks a lot. He pumps up his teammates. He has great banter with all of his teammates; he has great banter with me.”

—  Jazz coach Will Hardy

But along the way, there were also role players who ended up sticking not only because of their skill, but because of the intangible qualities they brought to the team.

“Those characteristics are just toughness and that competitive fire, that is their strength,” Ainge said. “I would say the guy on our team this year that exemplified that the most is Kris Dunn. Kris gave us a defensive presence more than anybody else on the perimeter. ... He has a role in the NBA, and we liked what he brought to the table.”

Dunn was not only a defensive stalwart for the Utah Jazz this season, but he also helped to shape the personality of the team. Coming in on a 10-day deal near the end of the 2022-23 season, Dunn wasted no time showing his personality.

In his first appearances with the Jazz, Dunn knocked down a shot and turned to flex at head coach Will Hardy, who recognized early on that Dunn was something that was missing from the Jazz roster — an extrovert.

“Kris gives our team a swagger,” Hardy said. “Kris talks a lot. He pumps up his teammates. He has great banter with all of his teammates; he has great banter with me.

“His personality gives our team a lot of energy. Kris is always the center of attention when he’s in a room. Like, he has that personality, he’s got that kind of magnetic way about him. We all know people like that. ... He’s got a great sense of humor; he’s really funny. His personality is bleeding into the rest of the group.”

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On a team that has a number of introverted guys, and a lot of young players, having someone who can bring out a more jovial disposition is important, and it’s not just about breaking the young players out of their shell. Dunn has taken on a leadership role that is important given how many really young players are on the Jazz roster.

Dunn, who was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2016 draft, ended up learning a lot about expectations and what it means to fight against a narrative.

After losing playing time and fighting through a number of injuries, Dunn was on the outside of the NBA looking in. He ended up in the G League trying to revamp his game and prove that he still deserved a spot on an NBA team.

As the Jazz traverse this rebuild, Hardy has mentioned how important it is for players to remember what a privilege it is to play in the NBA. With a losing record, through a grueling 82-game schedule, players have to remember that there are hundreds of other players out there who would love to be in their position, so it’s important to play hard and give maximum effort no matter the circumstances.

Dunn is a perfect example of the NBA business chewing people up and spitting them out and proving that only the strong will survive, so while imparting those lessons and that wisdom to the young players on the Jazz roster, he also has the unique ability to build up their confidence.

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“We’ve got younger players, and because I’ve been through so much during my journey, they have questions and I’ve got answers,” Dunn said. “I’m also one of those guys who like to pick their brains. I like to see what they see on the floor.

“They all have an individual talent that makes them really good and I try to steal from their game, too. I’m not the one to be selfish in the sense of thinking that I can only give without receiving.”

Hardy noted that because of Dunn’s personality and leadership qualities, he’s seen a number of players open up, including Lauri Markkanen and others on the team who are in leadership roles of their own.

Dunn is set to become a free agent and has proven in his time with the Jazz that he is still the defensive phenom he was when he was drafted, and he has also added some solid and consistent offensive skills to his game.

In his 88 games played with the Jazz across two seasons, Dunn has averaged 7.4 points, 4.3 assists and just 1.3 turnovers while shooting a career-best 39.5% from 3-point range.

There is a chance that another team could see what Dunn has done on the court and offer him a deal that would take him away from Utah, but it’s also clear that Dunn has all the characteristics that could lead the Jazz to wanting to keep him around for a long time.

Utah Jazz guard Kris Dunn defends Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 16, 2024. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Dunn has always been known as a defensive stopper, but he's proven to the Jazz that there's more to his game than that. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News