The Chicago Bulls ended last season a combined 1-6 when facing the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics. In Year 2 of this core, they are already 2-0.
As annoying as the losses to the Wizards and Cavaliers were, those are two extremely encouraging victories when we consider the consistent struggles this team faced against the NBA’s best last season. Now, can they blend that with last year’s ability to take care of lesser opponents? I guess we’ll find out with both the tanking Pacers and Spurs up next.
- As I shared in last night’s pre-game post, somebody outside the “Big 3” was going to have to step up to give this Bulls team a fighting chance. And Ayo Dosunmu answered the call. One game after a disappointing 2-7 showing for just 5 points and 3 assists, the Bulls’ new starting point guard looked like a true breakout candidate. Dosunmu finished as the team’s second-leading scorer with a season-high 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. After missing his first field goal attempt, he went a perfect 9-9 from the field, which included a 4-4 performance from long range.
- I can’t stress enough how stupidly impressive it is that a second-year No. 38th overall pick is doing what Dosunmu is doing. To be sure, I know he should have never fallen that far down the draft board, but this is still tremendous play from a sophomore who wasn’t widely considered a top-10 pick. He plays with the composure of a 10-year vet but possesses the drool-worthy potential of a 22-year-old. He’s already shown so much improvement during his short time in the NBA, and last night’s performance against arguably the best team in the East was just another example of that.
- First things first, it’s abundantly clear that Dosunmu worked on his 3-point stroke over the offseason. Not only does his release appear to be that much quicker, but the confidence he has to let it fly is especially evident. He’s nearly doubled his attempts per game since last season despite holding onto the impressive efficiency. It’s still an extremely small sample size, but it’s abundantly clear that he’s made an effort to become a more dangerous catch-and-shoot threat.
- What was equally impressive last night was Dosunmu’s contributions on-ball. Of course, we know from his time at Illinois that he has plenty of experience as a shot-creator on offense, but we hadn’t yet seen this translate much to the NBA level. Instead, during his first year, Dosunmu would primarily feast on those catch-and-shoot opportunities or transition buckets. What he did last night, though, was flash that whole other side of his offensive game. Whether it be blowing by Jayson Tatum on an isolation possession or using a hesi around the Vucevic screen to soar for the easy layup, Dosunmu’s off-the-dribble attack was a thing of beauty.
- I’ve always been a Derrick Jones Jr. fan, and a game like last night shows why. The high-flyer helped ignite the kind of style this Bulls team wants to play on both ends of the floor. His switchability and fearlessness helped the second unit get the stops they needed to get back in the game, while his off-ball activity and cutting skills helped secure some easy points. He checked in at the start of the second quarter and scored 8 of his 10 points before the clock hit the 9:21 mark. And Donovan assured us that he took notice:
“Total pro. He goes through the first two games, doesn’t get in. Played really really well against Cleveland, and we wanted to come back to him and give him another opportunity, and I thought he played really really well tonight,” Donovan said after the game. “I think one thing that helps him is that he and Goran have a great connection from their time in Miami.”
- Does this mean we should expect more Jones Jr. down the road? I’m not sure just yet. Patrick Williams and Javonte Green are also waiting in the wing, so the role for Jones Jr. could prove to be the most situational. However, he’s at least made the case for allowing him to prove that his role can be more than that, so I also won’t be shocked if his minutes increase a little over the next couple of games.
- I actually really liked Donovan’s decision to stagger DeMar DeRozan with the second unit last season. But Zach LaVine might be the way to go. The max player received an opportunity to lead the charge last night, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they clawed their way back into the game with him on the floor. Having LaVine out there allowed that group to better take advantage of their defensive stops and get ahead of the Celtics’ defense in transition. The sheer athleticism and speed that was on the court gave this second unit an impressive upper hand, and I expect we see a lot more of this in the coming games.
- I also just like the idea of LaVine getting more of an opportunity to play the lead creator role. He’s improved his leadership and playmaking in recent years, and this should allow him to better employ both these skills.
- Yes, that graphic is real.
- It’s beautiful.
- I’M HYPED FOLKS!
- Love a good check in …