The Chicago Bulls had to make good on their second-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. After Chicago fell out of the top five in the lottery, the first-round choice the Bulls owed as part of the Nikola Vucevic trade conveyed to Orlando Magic. However, as star guard Zach LaVine knows all too well, Chicago hit the jackpot in local kid Ayo Dosunmu.
Dosunmu, who attended Morgan Park high school in Chicago, showed his promise with a tremendous preseason. He fought his way into the rotation and has since become a vital two-way presence for a Bulls backcourt decimated by injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.
The former University of Illinois star is now a sleeper candidate for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. As LaVine and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green suggested, Dosunmu is far and away the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft.
Zach LaVine called Ayo Dosunmu a “dog” on Draymond Green’s podcast
Zach LaVine and Draymond Green know quite a bit about dedication to the grind. LaVine overcame a torn ACL in 2017 to become one of the NBA’s elite scorers, while Green has gone from second-round pick to future Hall of Famer.
Both stars see a high level of commitment in Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu.
LaVine sat down with Green as part of “The Draymond Green Show” on the Volume platform. The All-Star two-guard sang Dosunmu’s praises, calling the 22-year-old a “dog” and saying he has a “chip on his shoulder.” Green, meanwhile, labeled Dosunmu the “hidden gem” of the 2021 NBA Draft.
LaVine also credited Dosunmu with seizing the opportunity with guys going down with injuries and in health and safety protocols. He explained that the Bulls need the rookie to maintain that mentality as they progress throughout the remainder of the season.
Indeed, Dosunmu has been a significant contributor to Chicago’s success. It might not come as a surprise for him to generate massive NBA Rookie of the Year buzz in the next month-plus.
Dosunmu is the kind of two-way guard the depleted Bulls desperately need
Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan pace the Bulls with their combined offensive excellence. Ayo Dosunmu’s value comes primarily on the defensive end.
Although Dosunmu’s NBA draft scouting report highlighted his defensive versatility, he’s exceeded expectations on that end. The No. 38 pick has readily accepted the challenge of guarding some of the most dynamic guards in the NBA in recent weeks, including Ja Morant and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He’s having success against those elite players.
According to NBA.com, Dosunmu has held Trae Young to 2-of-9 shooting in two matchups against the Atlanta Hawks. Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum is just 4-of-13 with three turnovers, while Washington Wizards combo guard Bradley Beal is 2-of-8. Dosunmu’s willingness to guard top guys at multiple positions and his success in those matchups result in BBall Index’s metrics viewing him as the best on-ball defender in the NBA based on minutes and matchup difficulty.
But the Bulls rookie provides plenty of offense, too.
In nine games as a starter, Dosunmu is averaging 12.6 points, 5.9 assists, and 4.4 rebounds on an astounding 69% true shooting mark. He’s shown terrific vision in transition while himself running the floor and proving capable of knocking down spot-up jumpers.
That development as a playmaker and efficient perimeter shooter forces opposing defenses to account for Dosunmu, which in turn makes it easier for LaVine and DeRozan to generate offense.
The injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso might otherwise have prompted the Bulls to reconsider their plans before the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. However, Dosunmu’s effectiveness in a starting role might mean Chicago can forward with a backcourt of Ayo and LaVine.
Can LaVine and Dosunmu help the Bulls withstand all the injuries
Make no mistake: The Bulls still face an uphill climb as they try to take back the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Losing both Ball and Caruso for extended periods robs Chicago of its two perimeter playmakers and communicators on the defensive end. The Bulls also lost frontcourt depth when Derrick Jones Jr. suffered a fractured finger.
The next couple of months could prove trying for the Bulls. But Zach LaVine and Ayo Dosunmu complement one another well, and the fact that Dosunmu’s numbers in the starting lineup closely resemble Ball’s shows that Chicago can withstand the storm.
The Bulls will have the opportunity to add at the Feb. 10 deadline, perhaps by trading Coby White. Regardless, Chicago has the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft and a potential Rookie of the Year candidate in Dosunmu, who is ready to help LaVine and Co. win now and in years to come.