Ayo Dosunmu: The steal of the 2021 NBA Draft

Chicago Bulls Ayo Dosunmu (Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bulls Ayo Dosunmu (Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports) /

Ayo Dosunmu is quickly becoming the big steal from the 2021 NBA Draft. 

With the 38th pick in the 2021 NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls drafted hometown hero Ayo Dosunmu. The 6-foot-4 guard didn’t receive much buzz coming out of the University of Illinois. Many scouts had questions about whether or not his game could translate well to the NBA, including ESPN’s Chad Ford.

Well, at this point, I think it’s safe to say that not only has Dosunmu proved the scouts wrong, but he’s also exceeded expectations exponentially.

To start the season, Ayo was getting 10-15 minutes off the bench and playing well with the little opportunity he was given. As the season went along, he started getting more and more playing time. Injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso thrusted Dosunmu into the starting lineup. That’s when Dosunmu started to put the league on notice.

In his 20 games as the starter for Chicago, the 22-year-old rookie has averaged 11.5 points per game on over 53.9 percent field goal shooting and 40 percent 3-point shooting, per StatMuse. He’s also averaged 6.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game while playing stellar defense in 38 minutes per game as a starter.

He’s come right into Chicago and fits in perfectly with their team make-up.

He has run the offense with the poise of a veteran while often defending the opponent’s best perimeter player.  He has quick active hands on the defensive end which enables him to pick-pocket and steal the rock from opponents.

He does an exceptional job fighting over screens. Not giving his opponent any room to breathe.

"“Whether it’s a bigger scorer like Jayson Tatum or speedy guys like (Trae) Young, Dosunmu has the versatile on-ball ability to play lockdown defense,” points out The Ringers Kevin O’Connor in a YouTube video below."

On the offensive end, since Ball and Caruso have been out, as well as Zach LaVine, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has used Dosunmu as the primary playmaker. With the added responsibility, Dosunmu has flourished. He controls offense tempo like he’s been in the league for a decade yet he’s just a rookie.

He puts his teammates in positions to make plays which is one of the most valuable skills a player can have.

The most under-looked thing though is that he keeps it simple. Pocket passes to his rolling big off of the pick-roll, drive and kicks to his open teammate out on the perimeter, or simple passes to open cutters. He just makes the right read more often than not.

As a starter, he’s logging close to seven assists to just under two turnovers per game. He just doesn’t make many mistakes while on the court. A rare trait for any player to possess, let alone a rookie.

He’s also shown improvement playing off the ball. During his time at Illinois, Dosunmu was the Illini’s primary ball handler. He would usually bring up the ball and initiate the offense; rarely would he be sitting in the corner while someone else initiates.

Coming into the draft, one of the knocks against Ayo was his ability to play off-the-ball since he rarely had to do so in college. Being drafted to Chicago, with the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine only heightened these worries. Well, so far, he’s proven to be more than capable of playing off the ball.

He’s shown a great sense of not just cutting, but cutting at the right time. Plus, he’s hitting over 40 percent of his spot-up 3’s this season, per StatMuse. That impressive shooting mark cannot be understated because it’s so critical to have spot-up shooters around scorers like DeRozan and LaVine.

And he’s not just a spot-up shooter. He’s shown the ability to knock down pull-up mid-range jumpers at a consistent rate. In fact, he’s hitting over 50 percent of his 2-point jumpers off the bounce, per The Ringer.

The next move in Dosunmu’s game is to improve his 3-point shot. Even though he’s shooting over 40 percent from 3, he doesn’t take a lot of them, averaging 2.3 attempts per game to be exact. If he can get more comfortable shooting triples off the bounce, Dosunmu could go from a really good role player to a star in this league.

"[via NBC Sports]“He knows how to play the game of basketball. He can come in right away. He can take charges. He can defend the other team’s best player. Some nights you see him scoring in the 20’s. This kid right here is one of those guys like a Kawaii Leonard. You’ve got somebody that’s a diamond in the rough. And if he continues to add to his game, he can  be a feature guy like Jimmy Butler became.” – Dwyane Wade"

That’s from Dwyane Wade during TNT”s pregame of a Bulls game earlier this season. That’s high praise from one of the NBA’s 75 greatest players ever. 

Even if Dosunmu doesn’t improve at all, he’ll still have a decade-plus NBA career barring any injury. He can just continue being what he is right now: a smart ball-player who can initiate the offense, make the right decisions, knock down open 3’s, create for teammates and play excellent defense. Every team in the league would sign up for that.

He’s already made so much progress this year. Going from 10-15 minutes off the bench to start the season to becoming a starter and playing 38 minutes a game.

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Granted, injuries have been the reason for the rise in Dosunmu’s playing time but he’s taking advantage of it and shown the coaching staff why he deserves to be a focal point in the Bulls rotation going forward.