Dosunmu, Phillips prove the future is still bright for the Bulls

Chicago Bulls v Portland Trail Blazers
Chicago Bulls v Portland Trail Blazers / Amanda Loman/GettyImages

After dropping two consecutive games to the Suns and Lakers, the Chicago Bulls really needed a win as they wrapped up a three-game road trip in Portland last night. Unfortunately, they'd have to do so without starting forward Patrick Williams, as he joins Zach LaVine, Torrey Craig, and Lonzo Ball on an injury report that seemingly never ceases to expand.

Up against the fifth-worst team in the NBA, however, the Bulls wouldn't be able to use injuries as an excuse. No matter which way you cut it, the Trail Blazers entered the game with a 13-32 record for a reason — they're flat-out awful. If Chicago is to ever seriously re-enter the discussion for playoff contention, these are the types of games you simply cannot afford to lose.

In Williams' absence, Ayo Dosunmu would slide into the starting lineup and rise to the occasion. His offense was unreliable for most of the night, but he more than made up for it with his stellar defense, including three crucial blocks to keep points off the board for Portland.

Ayo may have failed to hit a single three-pointer through the first 47 minutes of the game, but he came through when it mattered the most. After Portland attempted double-teaming DeMar DeRozan on an iso possession, the ball eventually found its way to Dosunmu, where he'd hit a clutch three to send the Bulls up six points with only 20 seconds remaining on the clock.

Chicago would end up sealing the victory 104-96, good enough to advance to a 22-25 record and maintain a firm grasp on the 9th seed in the Eastern Conference. Had Ayo's clutch shot not gone in, it's entirely possible the Bulls fall to 21-26 and hold a much more miserable outlook on the back of a three-game losing streak.

Ayo Dosunmu and Julian Phillips are playing like second-round draft steals for the Chicago Bulls.

As good as Dosunmu was last night, he wasn't the young prospect that impressed me the most last night. That title goes to Julian Phillips, who was bumped back into the rotation following Williams' foot injury. This game would mark the first time all season Phillips was granted 20 or more minutes of playtime, and he did not let the opportunity go to waste.

The rookie Phillips ended up contributing 11 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block in 23 minutes of action, solid numbers for a player who rarely cracks the rotation. When the Bulls drafted Phillips 35th overall last summer, they had hoped he could one day reach his projections of being a high-energy two-way forward.

That being said, I doubt anyone believed he'd begin realizing his full potential this early. Sure, his shot could still use some work, but if he can continue playing at the level that he did last night I see no reason why Phillips can't continue to be a part of the rotation moving forward.

This is a very big development for a Bulls team that has been lacking in forward play after losing Derrick Jones Jr. and Javonte Green in free agency, as well as Williams and Craig due to injury reasons. Although it seemed Dalen Terry was the young Bulls prospect who had a chance to break out this season, it may actually be Phillips who supplants him in the rotation.

Regardless of what happens for the rest of the season and beyond, it no longer seems the Bulls are entirely dependent on the play of their veteran trio of LaVine, DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic. If Chicago's young talent keeps developing at this rate, the Bulls' most important building blocks for the future will be Coby White, Williams, Dosunmu, and Phillips, not the three aforementioned All-Stars.

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