A recent conversation between Heavy’s Sean Deveney and long-time analyst Steven Bulpett on an episode of their Heavy podcast, suggests Chicago could consider shopping Ball. Bulpett believes the framework for a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers could be there if Chicago wanted to explore a trade.
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Is Ayo Dosunmu Making Lonzo Ball Expendable?
Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu has had a delightfully surprising rookie season. He has played his way into the team’s rotation. Dosunmu has averaged 8.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in 27.2 minutes of action. He’s started 36 games and he’s been even more productive as a starter.
As a member of the first five, Dosunmu has posted 10.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He made huge plays in several games including a dagger dunk to close out the Indiana Pacers on February 4. The play finished off a 15-point, 14-assist performance that helped push the Bulls to a 122-115 win on the road. Dosunmu hasn’t been close to a double-digit assist game in March which could be partially associated with the return of Caruso on March 12.
“Look at Ayo, he is a guy who intrigues the hell out of me,” Bulpett told Deveney. “You look at him at this point and you have to say, what is he going to be with seasoning, with experience, with being able to focus his basketball intellect, develop his game and make even better decisions. This guy can play. If he stays on this track, then the bigger concern is going to be stretching out DeMar DeRozan’s window as long as possible to take advantage of a guy like Ayo.”
Dosunmu appears to be a sponge whose confidence was on the climb when his minutes were up. The return of Caruso and Billy Donovan’s desire to get Coby White minutes have affected the rookie’s rhythm a bit.
That might explain why his productivity took a dip in March. Dosunmu shot just 25.6% from three last month. However, if you think about clearing some space for him and adding a more defensive-minded big, could the Bulls invest more in Dosunmu’s development?
“It leaves some interesting questions with Lonzo,” Deveney suggested. “You’re going to have an opportunity, if you want to shop him, you can bring back something of real value. There were a lot of teams that wanted him last summer and that is not going to change. Now you’ve got him under contract, you can make a swap, that would be worth exploring for a lot of teams.”
The Good and the Bad With Ball
Ball is an excellent perimeter defender and three-point shooter. He excels in transition playmaking as well, though he doesn’t create in the half-court quite as well as Dosunmu. Ball won’t be 25 until October, so he’ll definitely still have suitors if the Bulls wanted to pull the plug.
If Chicago did want to trade Ball, the decision probably wouldn’t be based on his on-court play. It would more than likely be associated with his lack of durability.
The Bulls haven’t been whole most of the season. Injuries and COVID-19 have taken a massive toll on one of the more surprising teams in the NBA this season.
Chicago had arguably their biggest win of the regular season on Thursday night at home when they registered a comeback win over the Los Angeles Clippers. On the strength of DeMar DeRozan’s 50-point performance, some aggressive attacks to the basket from Zach LaVine, solid inside play from Nikola Vucevic, good defense from Caruso and some huge shots from Patrick Williams down the stretch, Chicago put together a team win.
The missing piece in this win is Ball. He’s still out with a knee injury. Ball has missed 42 of the Bulls’ 77 games this season.
He could miss the remaining five games on the Bulls’ schedule, which would mean he would have been unavailable for 47 of the 82 contests. In any case, this is the third time in Ball’s five-year career that he has missed 30 or more games in a season. That’s troubling. Still, there is always the possibility of helping him condition his lower-body to prevent more injuries. Maybe that’s what entices a team like the Clippers to consider matching Ball up with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard for the 2022-23 season.
Would the Clippers Have a Package Good Enough to Pry Ball Out of Chicago?
“The Clippers, though, if they wanted to make a push for him, they have the pieces,” Bulpett mentions. “They could build a package around Luke Kennard and Zubac, that kind of addresses the Bulls’ big problems with shooting and defense at the rim and it allows the Bulls to look for a trade that sends out Vucevic as well. The Clippers really like Zubac though, so it would be tough.”
Here is the entire podcast with Deveney and Bulpett:
Kennard is leading the NBA in three-point shooting at just under 45%. In five seasons, Kennard is a lifetime 42% three-point shooter. He isn’t the defender or passer Ball is, but he doesn’t miss as many games and few are better from long range.
Zubac is a strong interior defender. He just turned 25 as well. He’s not a huge shot blocker, but he’s a strong space-eater in the paint. For reference, opponents are shooting 57.7% inside six feet when Zubac is the main defender in the paint. In the same situation, opponents are feasting on Vucevic at a clip of 62.7%.
The best rim protector in the league? Who else? The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Jarrett Allen who is holding opponents to just 48.6% shooting inside six feet. If you’re wondering why the Cavs have fallen off, you can trace it back to when Allen went down with an injury.
The Bulls would love to add an eraser like Allen. Zubac isn’t that guy and because of that, Chicago would have to wonder if it might be better for them to simply help Ball remain healthy. If Dosunmy takes another step in the postseason and Ball doesn’t return, this could become a more serious conversation.
Trading Vucevic and White are the smartest moves the Bulls can make. Moving Vucevic makes room for the sort of rim protector the team needs, and parting ways with the likable White would clear room for the more complete and higher-ceiling Dosunmu.
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