Not much thought was spent on the Chicago Bulls ahead of the 2021 NBA Draft, given that they had no first-round pick, but it’s looking like they found a contributor regardless.
Homegrown guard, Ayo Dosunmu from the University of Illinois, was taken by the team with the 38th overall pick in July.
And just three months later, the rookie’s already winning games for the Bulls, albeit a preseason exhibition matchup.
Over the last four and a half minutes of Chicago’s October 10th win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, he scored nine points; including two last-minute shots to seal it:
The 21-year old’s performance has drawn rave reviews from all of the fanbase, coaching staff, and his teammates.
Whether or not it will impact what kind of role he plays on the high-aspiration, 2021-2022 Chicago Bulls, is unclear.
But should head coach Billy Donovan call upon him, it looks like Ayo Dosunmu is far from afraid of the moment.
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LaVine: ‘Dude is Stone Cold’
Following the team’s third straight preseason win, Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine had high praise for Ayo Dosunmu.
The All-Star guard went as far as to fully credit (via NBC Sports) the rookie for the team’s win:
Dude is stone cold. Doesn’t care about the situation. Going in there, he’s going to play his heart out. He showed that (against the Cavaliers). He pretty much won us the game.
And in seemingly even higher praise, LaVine spoke highly of Dosunmu‘s approach as a rookie on and off the floor:
He (Dosunmu) doesn’t have any fear at all, offensively or defensively. He asks a whole bunch of questions. He probably asks more questions than any rookie I’ve been around, on- and off-the-court subjects. So he wants to learn.
With the support of team-lead Zach LaVine, and (perhaps situationally) head coach Billy Donovan, Ayo Dosunmu is prepped for a productive rookie season in the NBA.
Or at a minimum, to exceed the expectations that come with being a second-round selection in the NBA Draft.
But he’s not the only first-year Chicago Bulls player turning heads with their preseason performance.
Johnson Leading Overperforming Bench
And in the same vein, the Chicago Bulls were highly praised when they brought in the forward shortly thereafter.
Johnson, 25, is an incredibly gifted athlete with an explosive ceiling that can help to supplant second units.
So far, he’s done just that, and more.
Johnson posted 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for Chicago in their latest win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
His energy and play have earned some high praise (via NBA.com) from head coach Billy Donovan:
Alize played great. These (reserves) are competitive, tough, hard nosed guys. There’s been times in practice that second unit has done a great job (against the starters) holding their own. A guy like Alize I’ve got a lot of respect for him.
Johnson’s aforementioned “tenacity” has earned him looks at the backup center position behind Nikola Vucevic.
And so far, head coach Billy Donovan likes what he’s seen:
These three games I have not noticed we’ve really gotten hurt with his size. There may be times we do. He’s in there and battles and fights and holds his own around the basket with anybody. You saw today he’s standing in the lane with a lot of big guys and he’s in there still coming down with rebounds and incredibly active.
Preseason basketball is almost entirely dedicated to guys showing the coaching staff what they’re prepared to offer, and securing (even if only a chance at) a roster spot.
Alize Johnson and Ayo Dosunmu have done just that and made strong cases for contributing roles on the Chicago Bulls.
With two preseason games remaining, they’re both strong candidates to be featured in the 2021-2022 playoff push.