The Chicago Bulls telegraphed their anticipation of Lonzo Ball’s absence continuing into the regular season. Their entire offseason quite possibly could have gone the same way had he been healthy but it certainly aligns with their current circumstances.
Now though, they must make the right choice of fill-in for their starting point guard as Ball faces a lengthy road to recovery even when he does get cleared for basketball activity again.
All of their options offer something different.
While the Bulls have several veteran options they could turn to, there has been a push to let second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu take over the reins until Ball returns – the team is said to view the youngster as a future starter. But there is also a strong case against it and it has everything to do with youth.
Bulls Need Consistency
The Bulls’ window for contention with this group is now. Their time without Ball has to be managed well enough that they are at least in the playoff picture when he returns. And, with their tough slate out of the gates, they need a steadying hand.
“When his minutes climbed in the second half of the season, Dosunmu showed signs of fatigue,” writes The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry. “His surprising 3-point accuracy fell from 40.7 percent before the All-Star break to 31.7 percent after the break…The Bulls need consistently reliable performers around [DeMar] DeRozan, [Zach] LaVine, and Nikola Vučević.”
Mayberry asks if it was just a rookie wall after making the jump to the NBA or a sign that Dosunmu was stretched a bit too thin.
To his credit, the former 38th-overall pick bulked up this offseason to help.
And he showed rapid improvement when he stepped in as a starter last season. As Mayberry, notes, there is reason to believe that another significant leap is possible in Year 2 for the All-Rookie second-teamer but in due time.
If Dosunmu did hit the rookie wall, there is always the possibility of a sophomore slump this year.
“This isn’t the time to target development. If Dosunmu wins the job, he will have earned it.”
Dosunmu’s Encouraging Start
Just because he doesn’t think he should start, Mayberry is highly complimentary of what Dosunmu was able to accomplish in his first NBA season.
“Don’t dismiss the 40 games Dosunmu started last season, 38 of which came in Ball’s place. In that unexpected trial run, Dosunmu did about as well as anyone could expect the 38th overall pick to fare.”
Dosunmu averaged 11 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.6 rebounds in his starts after Ball’s injury.
Mayberry says that makes Caruso the early “favorite” to get the starting job right away.
“Dosunmu benefited more than anyone from Ball and Caruso missing extended time last season. He showed he could handle whatever was thrown his way and always looked ready for more…But he’ll get better as the season goes and won’t reach his best until Ball has rejoined the lineup.”
Bulls’ Plans Could Change
Even if Dosunmu doesn’t get the starting nod right away, there is always the chance that he ends up there as soon as midseason. He may earn it as Mayberry suggests. Additionally, the Bulls could find themselves in a bad way if the season goes as many expect.
The Bulls were already considered a candidate for a big move at or around the trade deadline in February.
That could be true if things are going well or poorly.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, the more they look for answers to the issues presented by Ball’s knee, the more questions that pop up. There are cases to be made for starting all of their options. But their initial decision could go a long way toward setting the tone for the rest of their wait until Ball is back in the fold.