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Ayo Dosunmu's growth and next steps for the Chicago Bulls

Will Gottlieb Avatar
January 29, 2024

The Chicago Bulls overcame a poor shooting night and took down the Portland Trail Blazers to close out their three-game road trip with a 104-96 win on Sunday night.

The Bulls shot just 8-of-32 from three and 46 percent from the field, but forced 13 Blazers turnovers while committing only four of their own, a season-low. So even though they lost the battle of the free throws and offensive rebounds, their efficiency, along with strong performances from Ayo Dosunmu and Julian Phillips, was enough to carry them.

Ayo Dosunmu’s next steps

Dosunmu’s hot scoring night started at the opening tip, when a forward tap from Nikola Vucevic led to an easy dunk before the scoreboard graphic displayed on the screen. My middle school team ran a similar gimmick to start games, which I had the pleasure of observing from the bench, but starting the game up 2-0 is never a bad thing.

In addition to a solid 11 points, five rebounds, three assists on 5-of-12 shooting from the field, Dosunmu collected one of his three blocks in the final 75 seconds of the game, and hit the dagger three to put the Bulls in charge.

With more minutes and a larger role, we’re starting to see what areas Dosunmu will need to work on to take the next steps in his development. Based on his rim finishing, that next level is learning how to slow down.

A blur in transition, Dosunmu has been able to beat just about anyone down the floor in a footrace. His scoop layups disrupt shot blocker timing, opening up a window to put a layup attempt on the glass before a defender can rise up.

But teams are starting to time him up, and he’s clearly working on the counter:

Dosunmu has become efficient and productive at the things he does well. As he continues to grow, he will have to flex his muscles in other ways and understand how to excel with the second-level moves — the counters on top of the moves that are showing up on scouting reports.

The fact that you can see him decelerating, putting his body into defenders and using that contact to propel him forward shows that he knows these are the next steps in his development.

It’s only a matter of time before he figures it out.

Julian Phillips understands spacing

With Williams (and Torrey Craig and Zach LaVine) out of the lineup, second-round pick Phillips got his first minutes since January 2 and had some intriguing moments.

Starting things off with a chasedown, two-handed volleyball block of Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon in transition, Phillips athleticism continues to pop.

With 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, Phillips led the team in bench minutes with 23.

Phillips, whose 43-inch vertical leap led the entire 2023 Draft Combine, showed more than just elite athleticism against the Blazers. In spite of playing just 122 career minutes, Phillips displayed a keen awareness of floor spacing, floating in and out of real estate to avoid cramping the floor.

Phillips movement helped pull his defender away from the play, while making himself an outlet for teammates on the drive. This resulted in easy points over the course of the game, which clearly helped his confidence.

But it also shows he’s reading and understanding the game at an impressive level given his experience.

Patrick Williams walking boot

After visiting with a doctor during the team’s extended stay in Los Angeles, Patrick Williams arrived to Sunday night’s game in Portland wearing a walking boot on his left foot.

Williams sustained an ankle injury earlier in the year that forced him to miss three games, but this is a different problem.

“It’s something that’s kind of bothered him but he’s been able to play through it,” Billy Donovan told reporters in Portland “He’s been dealing with it but it’s nothing that’s prevented him from playing. But I think it got to a point after the Laker game (Thursday) that he was having a lot of discomfort there, so he ended up going to see a doctor out in L.A. and they just recommended keeping his foot immobilized for right now.

The Bulls plan to get more imaging done on Williams’ foot when the team returns to Chicago. More information regarding his timeline to come.

Up next: Bulls are back home on Tuesday for their fourth match up with the Toronto Raptors

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