Bulls’ Former Top Pick Floated as Offseason Target for Celtics

Chicago Bullls

Getty Robert Williams III #44 and Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics.

If the Chicago Bulls aren’t careful, they could see Ayo Dosunmu join a title contender.

“Marcus Smart was an institution in Boston…Replacing him will require a committee, if not a higher-end trade target,” wrote Dan Favale of Bleacher Report on June 28. “Ayo Dosunmu is fit to pick up some of the slack.”

Dosunmu, 23, averaged 8.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists this past season shooting 49.3% from the floor and 31.2% from beyond the arc. But, after making the All-Rookie Second Team, Dosunmu hit a bit of a slump with his production remaining stagnant in some areas but mostly regressing, particularly from beyond the arc where he shot 37.6% in 2021-22.

The Bulls drafted Dosunmu with the No. 38 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, their only selection of the cycle.

His 77 appearances in 2021-22 led the team and he made 80 appearances this past season.

“While the 23-year-old can’t quite replicate Smart’s four-position switchability, he is no picnic at the defensive end,” Favale continues. “He has the size (6’5″) and intuitive ability to guard 1 through 3.”

Boston isn’t going to just be able to take bring Dosunmu in, though.

The former University of Illinois standout is a restricted free agent, giving the Bulls the right of first refusal to any offer sheet he signs this offseason.

Bulls Extend Qualifying Offer to Ayo Dosunmu

The Bulls took the first step to ensure that Dosunmu stays put, extending a qualifying offer to the youngster. If he accepts, he will play out the final year of his rookie contract and become an unrestricted free agent next season if the two teams cannot agree on a long-term contract.

But if Dosunmu declines, he will officially be on the market.

According to an anonymous executive in a conversation with Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney, the expectation around the league is the Bulls will do what it takes to keep Dosunmu in-house but their finances could be the determining factor.

“I am sure they will match any deal he gets,” the executive told Heavy Sports. “But another team can make things difficult by putting in a balloon payment in the third year.”

The executive noted the Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz, or San Antonio Spurs could be suitors while Chicago’s finances got a little bit tighter after they agreed to terms on a new three-year, $60 million contract extension with Nikola Vucevic on June 28. With Coby White also getting extended the qualifying offer, the timing could be key.

There is no question the Bulls remain high on Dosunmu.

Bulls Still Believe in Ayo Dosunmu

“Ayo is going to be a good player in this league,” said Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas during his exit interview on April 15. “I think it’s going to be a big offseason for him but I hope you know he’s here for a long time as well.”

Karnisovsas noted that opponents adjusted to Dosunmu after his rookie campaign and put the onus on the youngster to improve.

To Dosunmu’s credit, he’s not resting on his laurels.

He could also get another shot to earn the starting point guard job – which he lost last season – in a battle with White with Lonzo Ball expected to miss the entire 2023-24 campaign as he continues his recovery from three knee surgeries in 14 months.

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