The Chicago Bulls need to be very careful with their starting lineup in the wake of the latest update on starting point guard Lonzo Ball. While they seem destined to be without him for at least the early portion of the regular season, they do have options.
That has been the underlying theme of an offseason defined by “continuity”.
To be better protected if Ball is not ready some nine months after surgery to repair a torn meniscus the Bulls drafted, retained, and signed contingencies.
But some would argue that the Bulls already had their best possible solution to the issues that plagued them without Ball last season. So who exactly should be the starting point guard until Ball can take the floor again?
Ayo Dosunmu Should Start
The Bulls opted for Ayo Dosunmu last season in Ball’s absence. He wound up drawing 38 of his 40 starts after Ball went down. He averaged 11 points, 5.2 assists, and 3.4 rebounds while shooting over 52% from the floor and 35% from three-point range in that span.
Dosunmu has drawn praise for stepping into the role as a second-round rookie. His efforts have Forbes’ Morten Jensen urging the Bulls to start him from the outset.
“The Lonzo news obviously sucks for both him and the Bulls. They’re much, much better with him out there. However…I’m *tremendously* curious to see Ayo Dosunmu getting 30 minutes per game right off the bat.”
Ball’s plus-4.6 efficiency differential, per Cleaning the Glass, was the third best on the team among players with at least 1000 qualifying minutes.
Conversely, Dosunmu’s was the worst.
A fan took to the comments to point out that the Bulls’ offense stagnated with the rookie at the helm and claimed Dosunmu is incapable of the necessary playmaking to keep it running efficiently.
They suggested Dragic or Alex Caruso should start over Dosunmu but Jensen had previously said that starting Dragic would be a “missed opportunity”.
No Shading Dosunmu’s Season
“Ayo literally played his best basketball when he started at the one. His ability to balance playmaking and shot-taking was far better than that of Caruso. As for Dragić, his age has made him quite inconsistent. That’s the last thing the Bulls need when they’re without Lonzo.”
Caruso provided much of the defense Ball did. But he struggled from beyond the arc in his first season with the Bulls shooting just 33%.
Both he and Dosunmu have gone about bulking up this summer.
Caruso is doing so to better deal with a kamikaze playing style that has exposed him to injuries over his career. Dosunmu, who has had a “monster offseason”, could be doing so to better deal with the rigors of starting at point guard from Day 1.
To Jensen’s point, per Basketball-Reference, the only time Dosunmu posted a positive net rating was when he saw between 30 and 39 minutes.
Again confronted with the Bulls’ offense being bad with Dosunmu, Jensen argued the inverse.
“Given the amount of injuries at the time, it’s impossible to deem anything best or worst for the team, unless you’re expecting half the roster to fall again. At least Ayo maintained a high, consistent level with key guys entering and leaving the lineup.”
Warnings Against Dragic, White
Jensen was pretty adamant that Dragic should not be the starter and, perhaps, not even exposed to extended minutes. he has performed well for Slovenia in EuroBasket play. But he also recently admitted (tongue-in-cheek) that his 36-year-old legs “aren’t the same” as the last time he took the floor for his homeland five years ago.
“While I’m open to the idea that Dragić could have just had a poor 21-game stretch last season, I saw most of his games and it looked rough. The shot not falling was one thing, but he looked slow, and always a step behind on both ends. It was concerning.”
Where does that leave Coby White, the 2019 seventh-overall pick, heading into the final year of his contract with the front office planning on exploring his trade value again at the deadline?
Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
It also brings into question the idea that the Bulls will be able to rebuild his value as planned even with Ball’s absence leaving a void.
White will have a role. So will Dragic. But if Jensen was running the Bulls, neither would be the starting options while Ball is shelved. Ditto for Caruso who the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley suggests could benefit from a minutes restriction.