Zach LaVine Sends Strong Message on Bulls’ Rising Star

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls speaks to head coach Billy Donovan during a break in the action.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. It will still be quite some time yet before the Chicago Bulls get starting point guard Lonzo Ball back from his knee surgery – the second in less than a year.

But they aren’t lamenting their situation too much, not as it has given one of their own finds a chance to blossom.

Second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu has gone from draft afterthought to key starter.

And he’s not just along for the ride, Dosunmu is making an impact on the 4-4 Bulls who certainly felt his absence in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. After Dosunmu returned in a win over the Brooklyn Nets, one of his All-Star teammates gave a glowing review of the youngster’s performance.


LaVine Lauds Dosunmu

“He steps up to the challenge all the time,” Zach LaVine said. “Ayo even in his second year is a vocal leader. He helps pick up our energy, offensively, defensively, just the way he carries himself. In the fourth quarter, he came up with some giant steals.” (h/t Rob Schaefer/NBC Sports Chicago)

Dosunmu finished with 17 points, four assists, three rebounds, and three steals but it was his work on the other end.

He helped hold Broolyn’s Kyrie Irving to only four points on 2-for-12 shooting giving Dosunmu his best single-game defensive rating of the season. Irving, to his credit, still notched seven assists and six rebounds.

But he was a non-factor with his own offense until the fourth quarter.

This was the 24th time in Irving’s career that he’s been held below double-digit points and the points were his fewest in a game in which he attempted at least 10 shots.

For Bulls head coach Billy Donovan, Dosunmu’s energy to begin games stands out.

“He was the one guy who helped us get off to a good start,” said Donovan…Him getting downhill and getting us some layups really helped…We need his penetration going downhill and I thought he made some really good decisions.”

Donovan also cited some clutch buckets from the former Illini star and 38th-overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

But for his leadership to be taking even more steps is a testament to those around him.


Under the Influence

Last season, there was some mild surprise as Dosunmu, 22, became a calming force for a veteran-led team and players such as 32-year-old DeMar DeRozan. This season, we have seen the young Dosunmu do the same with 29-year-old backup big man Andre Drummond.

Dosunmu has cited lessons learned from Ball as part of why he is so comfortable in the role this season.

“He told me about…the pace of the game, and understanding where and knowing the personnel of my teammates,” Dosunmu said of Ball. “Just knowing where they like to get the ball at. Just being a student of the game. Managing the game.”

Leadership clearly comes naturally for the Chicago native.

But being able to put words to action is the only way that the former will resonate with proven veterans.


Something to Watch

Anyone watching could see the positive impact Dosunmu has on the Bulls. But, with only a small sample size to go off of, Dosunmu-led lineups are getting outproduced by 5.2 points per 100 possession, per Cleaning The Class.

As small as the sample size is, that rate is nearly identical to last season.

He also has the third-worst efficiency differential on the team ahead of only Patrick Williams and Nikola Vucevic – two embattled players to say the least.

The Bulls have battled through inconsistency and the performances of others can have a tremendous impact on a particular player’s production. Dosunmu’s impact also often goes beyond his own boxscore, particularly on defense as it did in the Bulls’ win over the turbulent Nets and Irving.

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