Coming into the 2021-2022 season, the Chicago Bulls had made major roster upgrades over the offseason and the previous trade deadline, which injected excitement straight into a hungry fan base.
What Bulls fans – and maybe the Bulls themselves – hadn’t realized yet, however, was how those roster upgrades had been even better than anticipated.
The Energy of Javonte Green
Due to Patrick Williams missing preseason games because of a bad ankle, 6-foot-4 Javonte Green started in his place and immediately displayed a level of energy that has become the trademark of this season from the Bulls.
Green, an afterthought acquisition during the 2021 trade deadline, signed a modest two-year contract with the Bulls, which he has already outperformed significantly.
Despite raw averages of just 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds, the 28-year-old wing has his fingerprints all over any game he plays in. Whether it’s thunderous dunks, on-ball steals, weakside blocks or rebounding the ball over players much taller than him, Green has a knack for getting the crowd involved and his teammates going.
Most analysts didn’t factor in Green as a crucial piece for the Bulls this season, but he’s been just that. Along with Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, the trio has made life hell for opposing ball handlers, forcing them into turnovers, blowing up pick and rolls and even stopping guys near the rim.
For someone expected to not play much of a role, Green has not only broken into the rotation, but has in fact become a part-time starter. Indirectly, you can view Green as a major acquisition that the Bulls got for practically free.
Second Round Magic
Another player not expected to play much this season was rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu. The 38th pick in the draft joined a team that had pivoted into win-now mode, almost overnight.
Yet, the homegrown product out of Morgan Park has earned minutes by playing a mature caliber of basketball, and proving himself willing to do whatever is asked.
One night Dosunmu might be asked to inject some offense off the bench, and the next he’s being asked to move the ball and focus on defense.
Only, the Bulls have probably reached the point where they needn’t ask him to focus on defense, as he does that regardless. The 6-foot-5 multipurpose guard/wing has taken a page out of Green’s book, and plays aggressive defense on every possession, looking to further cement his place in the rotation.
He’s done so well in fact, that it’s now fair to wonder if the Bulls would even be open to trading him for immediate veteran help. With the trade deadline just a little more than a month away, the Bulls are likely identifying which players to keep, and which to move.
For a team that currently owns the first seed in the Eastern Conference, and is projected to finish second in the Central Division by season’s end, per FanDuel Sportsbook, it’s normal to seek immediate upgrades.
Dosunmu, however, might simply have played himself into no-trade territory.
With Dosunmu already so polished at such a young age, it makes sense to keep him around long-term for several reasons.
For one, he’s only going to be better. At 21-years-old, Dosunmu is far from a finished product, and he’s likely to improve in several major statistical categories in the near future. After all, he averaged 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists last season at Illinois. The all-around game is there, it’s just a question of developing it in NBA context.
Secondarily, Dosunmu comes cheap. Dirt cheap, even. As a second-round selection, he’s not bound to the established rookie scale, and is thus earning just $2.5 million in total over this and next season. Given that he takes up practically nothing on Chicago’s cap sheet, they should be in no rush to move him.
Finally, he’s helping the Bulls win games right now. Dosunmu is hitting 53.2% of his shot attempts, including 40% from behind the three-point line, and does so while playing off of the team’s core of stars. As the season progresses, he could develop into a high-end role player in just a few months, providing Chicago with some extra bench help come playoff time.
All-in-all, Chicago were fortunate to luck into both Green and Dosunmu’s production this season. It’s given the team two extra depth pieces that can come in handy over the course of a long season.