Balancing expectations with reality is something we all face daily and the Chicago Bulls (8-10) are no different. Since the summer, they have gone about trying to navigate the early part of the regular season – and possibly longer – without starting point guard Lonzo Ball with, putting it lightly, mixed results.
Their record foretells their 11th-place standing in a competitive Eastern Conference and serves as a reality check following back-to-back wins over the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
It has been far from smooth sailing and some are calling for a fairly significant change.
“Chicago hasn’t had the luxury of using its preferred starting lineup with Lonzo Ball sidelined following knee surgery,” writes Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report before going on to say, “but it’s become clear the version Billy Donovan is currently using isn’t working, either.”
Should Bulls Bench Ayo?
Dosunmu cracked the starting lineup last season, mostly in place of Ball who has been down since January with his knee injury. With no timetable for a return – January seems to be the optimistic target – Ball’s absence paved the way for Dosunmu to retain the job he impressed in last season as a second-round rookie.
He did so this summer just as he did last season. But, to Swartz’s point, the expectations have changed in his second season as he has had the job from the outset of the campaign.
Swartz points to the group’s 101.1 offensive rating (10th percentile) entering Wednesday’s tilt with Milwaukee, per Cleaning The Glass, as undercutting a surprisingly stout defensive effort from the group despite missing Ball on that end.
The Bulls starters are posting a 104.4 defensive rating, ranked in the 69th percentile.
“[Zach] LaVine, [DeMar] DeRozan, and [Nikola] Vučević have all earned their spots, and Williams’ two-way potential should keep him safe for now. This leaves Dosunmu, whose own potential hasn’t resulted in winning basketball thus far.”
Plus-minus is not perfect by any stretch but it does provide some measure of overall effectiveness and supports Swartz’s argument to an extent.
Dosunmu, 22, has finished with a positive plus-minus just six times in 17 games this season.
He has averaged 14.1 points per game while the Bulls have gone 5-1 in those contests. In his 11 other appearances, they are 3-9 with the former 38th-overall pick averaging 9.2 points per outing.
Enter the Dragon?
Swartz doesn’t just suggest the Bulls make a change, he says the need to make a specific change at the point guard position. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he suggests the veteran-led Bulls go with a veteran option.
He offers Slovenia’s leading scorer, Goran Dragic who sat out Wednesday’s win with a neck injury, saying the wily guard “has been excellent as a reserve.”
“Dragić knows his role as a table-setter,” says Swartz, “and is off to the best three-point shooting start of his 15-year career by knocking down 44.0 percent of outside attempts while averaging 9.3 points and 3.8 assists in 19.2 minutes. With Dragić at point guard, this Bulls team looks completely different.”
The Bulls’ net rating rose from minus-3.2 with Dosunmu at point guard to plus-2.6 with Dragic before the Milwaukee Game. However, that comes on a paltry eight qualifying possessions and Swartz even admits the 36-year-old Dragic is a short-term solution to a long-term issue.
Dosunmu is also posting the worst efficiency differential on the team.
And Dosunmu’s three-point shot has regressed tremendously with only slightly more volume as Dragic has gone in the opposite direction.
But the Bulls are 6-4 when Dosunmu scores in double figures. So, while he may not be a point guard in the traditional sense, he has been a vital piece of the Bulls’ winning formula. What the Bulls need from the Chicago native is consistency and, since that could go for the entire team, Dosunmu figures to be in good shape.