Nearly three and a half hours after it started, the Chicago Bulls were finally on the clock in the 2021 NBA Draft, and took a hometown player in Ayo Dosunmu.
The combo guard played three years at Illinois, leading them to a No. 1 seed last season and was awarded as first-team All-American. Dosunmu took a huge leap in production during his final year of college, improving his scoring by four points, and his rebound and assists per game averages by two each. He also improved his three-point shooting by nearly 10 percentage points.
Dosunmu can get to the rim, hit pull-up jumpers, and is extremely dangerous when he gets out in the open court. He also can burn you if you rotate over too much to help on him as he can find open teammates for jump shots. At 6’5” and with his skills, Donsumu can be a solid rotation player for Chicago who can slide in at either guard position. But he also struggles with ball handling, turnovers at times, help defense, and has worries about the consistency of his jump shot.
Like with any prospect, there are strengths and weaknesses to his game.
One of Dosunmu’s biggest pluses is his scoring ability, particularly when near the rim or on pull-up jump shots. He averaged 20.1 points per game in his junior year in college and did so on a true shooting percentage of 56.6, which is decent if unspectacular.
Using his size, Dosunmu can power over smaller defenders and get to the cup with ease. He also isn’t scared of bigger defenders either, attacking at them whenever he gets into the lane. Dosunmu is great when he’s in the open court and has space to operate. If in a lineup featuring Zach LaVine and/or Coby White, Dosunmu is going to get a lot of chances to run in the open court, especially off of misses. In transition is where he truly excels. If the Bulls can get him the ball with time and the defense not fully set, then he can make them pay either through his scoring or passing. Or even if he doesn’t have the rock, he has nice enough off ball movement to find himself in open spaces where he can receive a pass for an easy layup or shot.
Dosunmu had the ball in his hands a ton while at Illinois and he proved that he can take defenders on off the dribble and create his own shot. Dosunmu can even knock down mid-range jumpers off the bounce, which is a very useful skill in the NBA.
As the lead ball handler in college, he is experienced in running the pick and roll, which is where he puts his passing prowess on display. When the opposing big man is on the move or stuck in between making two decisions, Dosunmu has the passing ability to find the open man more often than not. He can make all types of passes: skip passes to the corner, finding big men over the top when they are posting up, a kick out when he goes into the lane and draws help defense, alley-oops in the half-court. Hopefully he can have a good on-court relationship playing with Nikola Vucevic, a big who has shown he can finish anywhere near the rim. Like with his scoring, Dosunmu improved in the assists category his final collegiate season, notching 5.3 dimes per game.
While he certainly won’t have the ball in hands as a lead guard as much in the NBA, at least in his rookie year, Dosunmu has the tools to be a very good passer and potential playmaker in the NBA. Rather than being the one who draws the double and kicks it out or dumps it off, his role will likely be the guy who can make the smart second pass after the kickout to the open man. This is still a valuable skill in itself, as these secondary passes are still crucial to an offense generating good looks/shots.
Defensively, at his size and with a 6’10” wingspan, Dosunmu can almost certainly be able to guard both backcourt positions and some smaller wings in the NBA, a role that the Bulls still needs help with. Ayo can certainly hold his own against either guard position and won’t get bodied off the ball, but may have trouble guarding the taller ones. He moves his feet and navigates screens well when he’s guarding the ball handler.
Dosunmu also simply fights and displays 100 percent energy on every play, on both sides of the ball. This helps especially on defense as he isn’t afraid to make the hustle plays in order for his team to win. Effort isn’t everything when it comes to defense but having more of it certainly doesn’t hurt.
What he needs to work on
Dosunmu shot 39 percent from three in his final year at Illinois but did on only three attempts per game. So while the shooting percentage from deep is encouraging, we are going to need to see more from him in this regard. But to his credit, he did show an uncanny ability to hit big attempts while in college.
There are also questions on his jump shot overall. This is especially in catch and shoot chances, which could be something he sees an uptick of in Chicago versus with the ball in his hands the same way he did with the Illini. The question Ayo needs to answer is whether NBA teams will respect his jumper enough and won’t just let him shoot it uncontested. Not being able to will be a blow to his offensive contributions.
Something else Dosunmu needs to work on offensively are his turnovers and handle. He sometimes tries to do too much and forces passes where they shouldn’t be, committing 3.3 turnovers per game during his final year at Illinois. Sometimes he can be a bit loose with the ball and it allows teams to slap it out his hands or for him just to lose it while trying to make a move. In the NBA, defenders will be a lot closer (especially help defenders in the lane) to Ayo, and even though his size will be tough for some guys, if they have quick hands to counter it could be a problem. Chicago was one of the worst teams in terms of taking care of the ball last season and it is an outstanding question of whether Dosunmu will only exacerbate that team weakness.
Defensively, there are concerns of Dosunmu in terms of a help defender. He can sometimes rotate a bit too late or he will vacate an area to follow a man, leaving the rim or paint completely exposed. Again, he projects to be a very good 1 on 1 defender on the perimeter but it’s not always about just stopping your man. Luckily, these things can be taught.
Solid value for a 2nd-rounder
Ultimately, Dosunmu can give you scoring pop, and is good on the perimeter defensively. Dosunmu is a hometown prospect, which always makes for a feel-good story, and was lights out for his college team this past season. It is certainly possible that he turns into a player who is a part of Chicago’s rotation for next season and years to come. At pick number 38, that would be good value for that selection slot.
To recap: Dosunmu is a top scorer, especially when he’s out running in the open court and isn’t afraid to drive straight into the paint. He’s also shown flashes of being a very skilled passer. His size will certainly give Chicago a big presence on the perimeter in terms of 1 on 1 defending. However, there are questions about his jump shot consistency, handle, and team defense.
Though he’s someone who can possibly play both guard positions, Dosunmu shouldn't change Chicago’s pursuit of a point guard this summer. He will likely be coming off the bench during his rookie year with Chicago, and may ultimately be part of a reserve backcourt duo of him and Coby White.