Zach LaVine’s lusty praise for Ayo Dosunmu explains why Bulls rookie is the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft



The Chicago Bulls had to make their second-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. After Chicago fell to the top five in the lottery, the first-round pick the Bulls owed in the Nikola trade Vucevic was passed on to Orlando Magic. However, as star guard Zach LaVine knows all too well, Chicago hit the jackpot with local kid Ayo Dosunmu.

Dosunmu, who attended Morgan Park High School in Chicago, showed his promise with a terrific preseason. He worked his way into the rotation and has since become a vital two-way presence for a Bulls backcourt decimated by injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.

The former University of Illinois star is now a dormant candidate for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. As LaVine and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green have suggested, Dosunmu is by far the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft.

Zach LaVine called Ayo Dosunmu a “dog” on Draymond Green’s podcast

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Zach LaVine and Draymond Green know a lot about dedication to the grind. LaVine overcame a torn ACL in 2017 to become one of the NBA’s elite scorers, while Green went from second-round pick to future Hall of Famer.

Both stars see a high level of commitment in Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu.

LaVine sat down with Green on “The Draymond Green Show” on the Volume Platform. Both All-Star guards sang Dosunmu’s praises, calling the 22-year-old a “dog” and saying he had a “chip on his shoulder”. Green, meanwhile, called Dosunmu a “hidden gem” of the 2021 NBA Draft.

LaVine also credited Dosunmu with seizing the opportunity with injured guys and in health and safety protocols. He explained the Bulls need the rookie to maintain that mentality as they progress through the season.

Indeed, Dosunmu has largely contributed to the success of Chicago. It may come as no surprise to him to generate massive NBA Rookie of the Year buzz over the next month.

Dosunmu is the kind of two-way guard the exhausted Bulls desperately need

Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan pace the Bulls with their combined offensive excellence. Ayo Dosunmu’s value mainly comes from the defensive side.

Although Dosunmu’s draft NBA scouting report highlighted his defensive versatility, he exceeded expectations in this regard. The No. 38 pick easily accepted the challenge of keeping some of the most dynamic guards in the NBA in recent weeks, including Ja Morant and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He’s having success against those elite players.

According to NBA.com, Dosunmu held Trae Young to 2 of 9 shots in two games against the Atlanta Hawks. Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum is just 4 of 13 with three turnovers, while Washington Wizards combo guard Bradley Beal is 2 of 8. Dosunmu’s desire to keep top players at multiple positions and his success in these matchups causes the BBall Index stats to rank him as the best on-ball defenseman in the NBA based on minutes and matchup difficulty.

But the Bulls rookie also offers plenty of offense.

In nine games as a starter, Dosunmu is averaging 12.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds on an astonishing 69% true shooting mark. He showed tremendous vision in transition as he ran the floor himself and proved capable of knocking down point jumpers.

This development as an effective playmaker and perimeter shooter forces opposing defenses to consider Dosunmu, making it easier for LaVine and DeRozan to generate an offense.

Injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso might otherwise have prompted the Bulls to reconsider their plans ahead of the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. However, Dosunmu’s effectiveness in a starting role could mean Chicago can move forward with a backcourt of Ayo and LaVine.

Can LaVine and Dosunmu help Bulls resist all injuries

Zach LaVine (L) and Ayo Dosunmu (R) | From left to right: Stacy Revere/Getty Images and Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Make no mistake: The Bulls still face a tough climb as they try to reclaim the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Losing both Ball and Caruso for long stretches robs Chicago of its two defensive playmakers and perimeter communicators. The Bulls also lost frontcourt depth when Derrick Jones Jr. fractured his finger.

The next two months could prove to be trying for the Bulls. But Zach LaVine and Ayo Dosunmu complement each other well, and the fact that Dosunmu’s numbers in the starting lineup closely resemble Ball’s shows that Chicago can weather the storm.

The Bulls will have the option to add to the Feb. 10 deadline, possibly by trading Coby White. Either way, Chicago has the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft and a potential Rookie of the Year contender in Dosunmu, who is poised to help LaVine and Co. win now and in the years to come.

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