When the Chicago Bulls selected Ayo Dosunmu with the 38th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, nobody could have expected the homegrown product to break onto the scene the way he did. Earning All-Rookie honors in 2021, Dosunmu had a hard time following up on his strong start during his sophomore season.
Still, he did more than enough to earn the front office's faith, as Ayo would go on to sign a three-year, $21 million deal this past summer in free agency. With effectively no real cap space to use, this was a solid move to help retain one of Chicago's most promising young talents. Dosunmu has rewarded the front office's faith in him this season, posting career-highs in several advanced analytics such as BPM, PER, and net rating, while also making a difference in Chicago's win column through his impeccable play off the bench.
Last night was different, as Ayo helped propel the Bulls to a dominant 125-96 victory over an undermanned Grizzlies team. League leaders in games decided in the clutch this season, it was a relief to see the Bulls finally coast to an easy win for a change.
Despite coming off the bench, Dosunmu still managed to lead the Bulls with 20 points on an efficient 7-for-10 shooting from the field. He also chipped in 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal while racking up a game-high +28 plus/minus. With Zach LaVine sidelined for the next one-to-two weeks due to an ill-timed ankle injury, Chicago really needed Dosunmu to step up in his place and the third-year guard certainly didn't let his teammates down.
Ayo Dosunmu may earn a larger role with the Bulls if Zach LaVine's absence becomes a permanent one.
LaVine's absence seems to have allowed space for several players on the roster to make great strides, particularly in Chicago's backcourt with Dosunmu and fellow guard Coby White. With Zach's name involved in so many trade rumors as of late, it's hard not to think about the potential possibilities the Bulls have with their backcourt moving forward.
Dosunmu is currently averaging 15.3 points and 4 assists over his last four games, displaying much more confidence in his individual game as the season has progressed. Ayo is even shooting above 40% from three-point range over his last 20 games, clearly making strides to improve the weakest part of his new game under the tutelage of Chicago's new shooting coach Peter Patton.
It seems that Dosunmu's finally gotten past the sophomore slump and is making much more of an impact out there on the court, very similar to how he did during his rookie campaign. Although he's still a reserve player, Ayo is proving he can win games for Chicago, as shown by his 24-point outburst in a close game against the Miami Heat just over a month ago.
Considering the timeline of LaVine's injury diagnosis conveniently lines right up with the NBA's February trade deadline, it's a possibility that we've seen Zach play his final game in a Bulls uniform. Even after taking into account the players the Bulls would receive in return for LaVine, there's a strong case to be made for Dosunmu to remain in the sixth man role he currently occupies.
Given ample room to develop and grow, I do not doubt that Ayo can join Coby White and Patrick Williams as central building blocks at the very core of this roster. His defensive skills, playmaking ability, and hot shooting might just be what the Bulls need to spearhead their youth movement in 2024 and beyond.