Ayo Dosunmu is a Rookie, But He Sure Doesn't Play Like One

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Ayo Dosunmu is a Rookie, But He Sure Doesn’t Play Like One

Chicago Bulls

Ayo Dosunmu should have never been a second-round pick, but he also shouldn’t have become this good this fast.

The Chicago Bulls 38th-overall pick has vaulted himself up the rookie ranks over his first 42 games. In fact, NBA dot com’s latest rookie ladder has Dosunmu making his highest appearance yet at No. 8, sandwiching him in between two 2021 lottery picks in Indiana’s Chris Durate and Orlando’s Jalen Suggs.

Shoving himself into the rotation earlier this season, before a slew of injuries opened up a starting point guard role, Dosunmu has slurped up his opportunity faster than a cup of coffee the morning of a hangover. Dosunmu has averaged 13.9 points, 6.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals on a 58.0 percent shooting performance from the field and a 46.2 percent clip from downtown (3.2 attempts per game) over his seven games as a starter. He’s scored 15 points or higher in four of those games, including a career-high 24-point performance in a much-needed win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“His maturity is amazing,” DeRozan said after Dosunmu scored 18 points with 8 assists in a win over the Cavaliers on January 19th. “The presence that he brings, you wouldn’t think he is a rookie. You have got to be special to carry yourself in that way. And it’s not in an arrogant way because he is one of those guys that’s so inquisitive, that’s always asking questions, always consistently trying to find ways of learning. He accepts his mistakes, he holds himself accountable, and that’s big for a young guy to be able to do that.

Whether it be dishing 10 assists with only 1 turnover, starting a perfect 9-9 from the field, or even calming DeMar DeRozan down after a silly foul call, Dosunmu has played like a 32-year-old in a 22-year-old body. He has a somewhat startling blend of composure and youthfulness, one the Bulls have come to desperately need in the wake of injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.

In no way does Dosunmu show this maturity better than on the defensive end. While he’s always possessed good enough length and lateral quickness to project as a solid NBA defender, rookies are not supposed to step on an NBA court and manage superstars the way he has so far. A look at the NBA’s head-to-head matchup data is borderline jaw-dropping.

In 9:14 minutes against Bradley Beal this season, Dosunmu has held him to a 2-8 performance from the field with 6 points and 2 turnovers. In 8:22 minutes against Trae Young, the NBA’s 5th-leading scorer went 2-9 with just 10 points and 2 turnovers. Boston’s Jayson Tatum has shot 4-13 when guarded by Dosunmu in two games this season and Indiana’s Caris LeVert has gone just 2-9.

Of course, we can’t draw all our conclusions based on these tracking stats, but the numbers do sync up with the eye test. Dosunmu’s feet never stop moving, and it’s allowed him to stay in front of some of the NBA’s top scorers with relative ease. He leaves little room at all times for a player to get their shot off, and he’s also had great timing contesting shots with his 6’8″ wingspan despite standing just 6’4.” Among rookies who stand 6’7″ or shorter, Dosunmu has the second-most blocks (17) behind only Cade Cunningham.

BBall Index has Dosunmu currently listed at the top of their On-Ball Defense Metric, which does take into account matchup difficulty. This puts the rookie ahead of elite defenders like Matisse Thybulle, Isaac Okoro, Jrue Holiday, and Dillion Brooks. Does that mean Dosunmu should already be considered a better defender than each of those players? Absolutely! Not particularly, but it does speak to Dosunmu’s potential and current value to the Bulls.

I strung together some clips from recent games below, so feel free to give it a watch for a better idea of Dosunmu’s defensive on-ball contributions:

It’s hard to put into words how significant it is for the Bulls to get this kind of play from a second-round pick. Again, many of us may have put him inside the first 30, but that still doesn’t mean this level of play from Dosunmu would have been expected. Few rookies are able to consistently make the kind of winning plays that Dosunmu does, and it’s exactly why he continues to get more and more national attention. Speaking of which …

Now might be a good time to remind everyone that Dosunmu is only on a two-year deal. The Chicago Bulls handed the guard a two-year contract worth $2.5 million this offseason. Conversely, 2020 second-rounder Marko Simonovic was given a three-year deal worth up to $4.3 million this summer. With that in mind, Dosunmu is set to hit restricted free agency after only one more season in Chicago. When we consider how hot his rookie year has started, I think it’s fair to say he is line to have plenty of suitors come the 2024 offseason, and we’ll have to hope the Bulls are ready to pay up.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.