Ayo Dosunmu's potential draws striking comparison to All-Star guard

Portland Trail Blazers v Chicago Bulls
Portland Trail Blazers v Chicago Bulls / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

Over these past couple of years, we've witnessed an almost domino-like effect of revelations in the Chicago Bulls' backcourt. When Lonzo Ball went down with injury, Alex Caruso stepped up in his place and earned All-Defensive Team honors. When Zach LaVine went down, Coby White was there to pick up the pace. And when Coby went down... hometown hero Ayo Dosunmu proved himself to be a second-round steal.

In Caruso and White's case, this wasn't too much of a shock. After all, the Bulls were willing to pay above market rate at the time to land Caruso, and they shelled out a 7th overall pick in hopes Coby could one day become the player he is today. Dosunmu's rapid development, on the other hand? Now that was a surprise.

After leading the University of Illinois to its most wins and highest national ranking since 2005, Dosunmu would make an immediate impact on the Bulls. Despite being drafted in the second round at No. 38 overall, Ayo's performance earned him All-Rookie Second Team honors in 2022.

His breakout would be one of several highlights of that 2021-22 season, but it would be a short-lived high. One year removed from winning 46 games and going to the playoffs, the Bulls would finish 40-42 and fail to qualify for the postseason. Ayo suffered a similar decline, as his three-point shot fell off a cliff and he was ultimately buried in the rotation behind Chicago's more experienced guards.

Ayo Dosunmu's great start to his career with the Bulls is earning him comparisons to genuine All-Star talent.

The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor was quick to sing Dosunmu's praises for his rookie season, which sparked some interesting debate online in response. One member of the NBA community on Reddit likened Ayo to Jimmy Butler's rise in Chicago, to which another responded, "
I was thinking he’s kinda like Jrue Holiday".

"Like Jrue he’s likely never going to be a high-scoring guard," said another user, "But he’s going to give you a great balance of scoring, playmaking, and defense every night."

This intrigued me, so I thought I'd look back to see just how well these takes had aged. Although Ayo earned a lot of praise as a surprising rookie success, has the intrigue worn off yet?

With that in mind, let's compare Dosunmu's stats as a starter this season to Holiday's third season in the league. Although Ayo's shooting splits have been better as a starter, I included his percentages across the season as a whole to avoid any small sample size bias. This should give us a fair statistical representation of the two.

Ayo Dosunmu's 3rd season (2023-24)

Jrue Holiday's 3rd season (2011-12)

28 games (67 total)

65 games (65 total)

14.6 points

13.5 points

4.8 assists

4.5 assists

3.5 rebounds

3.3 rebounds

48.9 FG% (all games)

43.2 FG%

39.3 3P% (all games)

38.0 3P%

80.2 FT% (all games)

78.3 FT%

3.4 win shares

4.2 win shares

As you can see, Ayo is surprisingly outpacing Jrue's junior season in virtually every counting stat. Dosunmu may not be the same caliber of defender as Holiday, but he's no slouch on that end of the court either. It's also worth noting that Holiday accomplished these stats in an era with a much slower pace of play, which is why his stats equate to a higher amount of win shares, despite being lower than Dosunmu's box scores.

Jrue may be on the upper end of potential player comps here, but Ayo has proven he has a ton of untapped potential and is on track to become that type of elite two-way player in Chicago.

Of course, it wasn't until Holiday's fourth season that he'd break onto the scene and become a true force in the NBA. In the final year of his rookie contract, Jrue showcased a sizeable statistical leap, earning his first All-Star appearance and finishing fifth in Most Improved Player award voting. If we're lucky, Ayo just might experience that same level of growth soon.

Coincidentally, an opportunity might be opening up for Ayo to prove he can become that player as we speak. The Bulls are reportedly still interested in trading away All-Star guard Zach LaVine this summer, and Lonzo Ball still doesn't appear to be any closer to resuming basketball activities.

If neither Lonzo nor LaVine is in the starting lineup at tip-off next season, this would be the first time Dosunmu had the chance to start the season as a rightful starter, rather than an injury replacement.

Ayo and Coby both signed extremely team-friendly contract extensions this past summer, so the Bulls have a real chance to capitalize on this window and build a strong team around them. Can this duo be Chicago's backcourt of the future? Only time will tell, but it seems the Bulls are banking on that answer being a resounding "yes".

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