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Don't put a cap on Ayo Dosunmu's ceiling after his career-night

Will Gottlieb Avatar
March 17, 2024

Ayo Dosunmu keeps taking advantage of opportunity.

Scoring a career-high 34 points for the Chicago Bulls in their 127-98 win over the lowly Washington Wizards, Dosunmu bounced back from a relatively poor showing against the Los Angeles Clippers last game, in which head coach Billy Donovan said it was a, “great learning experience for Ayo” to get downhill and generate more closeouts for his teammates.

Unprompted, Dosunmu was quick to admit that was a missed opportunity for him.

“I think I did a poor job of that in the Clippers game,” Dosunmu admitted. “But like I said, in the Association, it’s about learning, getting better, watching film. I tried to pretty much live in a paint, where not only where I’m shooting it, I can either kick it out to somebody and they can drive it, they can create their own offense, and that’s definitely what we miss from Coby.”

Aside from DeMar DeRozan in the mid-range and Nikola Vucevic in the post, the Bulls don’t have many players that can create a shot out of nothing by rising up over the top of defenders, they have to rely on driving into the paint to draw help to create the opening.

“I think a lot of times you know, you look at Coby and you look at the offensive productivity, the scoring,” Donovan said. “But the one thing you lose with Coby — and a lot of times, the points — you can make up through committee. But the one thing it’s hard to make up is, he gets into the paint about 16-18 times a game.”

“When you take 16 of those (paint touched) off the board just with one player like that, we’ve got to manufacture some more.”

The Bulls have tried to manufacture more through quick hitting plays like the pistol action play that gets Dosunmu to the rim. But without White in the lineup, they needed more from him in the way of forcing rotations instead of setting the table.

“I think Ayo has got to not be so consumed of being what I would call a ‘directional point guard’, where I’ve got to get Vooch a shot, I got to try to throw the ball to DeMar,.’ He’s got to help generate some more progress into the paint, into the teeth of the defense, because we’ve got to play against closeouts.”

Injuries have thrown Dosunmu into a spot where he has an opportunity to do more with the ball in his hands. He’s got the downhill speed to be able to collapse the defense and draw help, which is exactly how the Bulls need to operate if they’re going to survive as a low three-point volume team.

Just one game after struggling with this concept, he comes back with a career-high scoring night, on top of nine assists.

And there’s even more room to grow.

“I think the one thing he can get better at is scoring even off-the-dribble in different areas of the floor,” Donovan said when asked what areas Dosunmu still has room to grow. “But I do think there’s more room for improvement and he’ll get better from this year as well. You know, the one thing I admire about him is when things are in front of him, he really tries to work to get better at them.”

With Dosunmu’s work ethic and approach to improving, there’s no point in trying to put a cap on his ceiling.

“I’ve never really put a limit on what I can accomplish,” Dosunmu said.

Injury updates

Coby White remained out for the second-straight game. It’s looking like a return later next week is in the cards.

“He’s doing pretty well,” Donovan said. “The hope is if he can continue to progress as he has the last couple days, certainly coming out of the weekend, this upcoming week is the hope.”

Meanwhile, Julian Phillips will be re-evaluated in two weeks after a right foot sprain landed him in a walking boot.

“He had been dealing with the foot issue on and off for a little bit of time,” Donovan said. “I think it got to the point where it flared up and was really bothering him. They were hopeful that maybe in a two-week timetable we’ll find out.”

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