Bulls Urged to Make Major Decision on Rising Star’s Future

Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago Bulls

Getty Ayo Dosunmu #12 of the Chicago Bulls looks on during a break in the action.

Letting every game come down to the wire is a tough way to live. The Chicago Bulls are learning that lesson this season with their 103-102 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers dropping their record in clutch games to 7-12.

They were 25-16 in clutch games – defined by NBA.com as within five points in the final five minutes of play – last season.

One of this season’s wins came on a buzzer-beating shot from Ayo Dosunmu.

The second-year guard was thrust into a starting job last season and retained it this season for much the same reason. He is also in a unique situation that the Bulls will have to address at some point and there is some thought that they would be better off making it a mere formality as much as possible.

Bulls Insider: Pay Ayo

“The local product is a restricted free agent this offseason,” writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “He stands to earn a significant raise…The Bulls should make every effort to make this negotiation a smooth one.”

Dosunmu, who had 19 points and a season-high five steals against Cleveland, started 40 games and led the team in total appearances last season thanks to injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.

The former’s continued absence created a pathway for Dosunmu to open the season as the starter and, despite some turbulence, he has shown encouraging growth this season.

Dosunmu is averaging 9.7 points on 58.7% true shooting with 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists. The points and rebounds are both improvements over last season but the assists and true shooting are both down. However, the numbers only tell part of the story for the Chicago native and former University of Illinois standout.

“He’s tough, versatile, and contributes whether he starts or comes off the bench,” explains Johnson. “While he still can improve his shooting and ability to run a team, he’s reliable and relentless. In-game failure doesn’t deter him.”

Dosunmu’s resolve has certainly been tested this season. He has been removed from the starting lineup and then saw his playing time cut drastically amid team chaos.

He has emerged better for it.

Over the last five games — since he was re-inserted into the starting lineup with Caruso out — Dosunmu has averaged 10.8 points and knocked down 42.9% of his triples. That compares very favorably to his run from earlier in the season of 13.6 points while 39.4% of his threes over an eight-game span.

Cost of Doing Business

“The Bulls have made clear how much they value Dosunmu,” continues Johnson. “But management said similar things about [Lauri] Markkanen and then failed to find common ground on an extension”

This is particularly notable given Markkanen’s breakout for the Utah Jazz after showing signs last year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bulls have also had to watch as Wendell Carter Jr. has taken off for the Magic along with Franz Wagner (who was taken with the pick that belonged to Chicago) while knowing they owe Orlando another first-round pick for Nikola Vucevic.

They also owe the San Antonio Spurs their next available first-rounder (currently on pace to be in 2025) from the trade that brought DeMar DeRozan to Chicago.

Markkanen’s was the only situation that was contract related but he was also a lottery pick.

“As a player who fell to the second round, Dosunmu signed a modest, two-year $2.5 million deal,” notes Johnson before tossing out a figure. “Would a three-year, $30 million deal get the job done? Time will tell.”

Bulls Forced Their Hand

The Bulls painted themselves into a difficult situation. Their top talent is aging and, perhaps, ill-fitting while they also don’t have the draft capital to replenish the ranks with either rookies or players that fit together better via trade. Retaining their own young talent has been their MO since last season, in part, for this very reason.

That should continue with Dosnumu who has shown more rapid improvement than either of the Bulls’ other two prominent prospects, Coby White and Patrick Williams, largely due to durability.

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