As Bulls ponder buyout market, Ayo Dosunmu believes he has grown
Why Dosunmu believes he has grown as lead playmaker originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
For the second straight season, injuries have thrust Ayo Dosunmu into the role of starting point guard for the Chicago Bulls.
This is unexpected territory for a second-round pick. It’s also occasional uncomfortable territory for a combo guard whom coach Billy Donovan has said needs to grow in his ability to run a team.
This isn’t a knock on Dosunmu, who is coming off a season-high eight assists against the Cleveland Cavaliers and has been found money for his hometown franchise. For the second straight season, he has provided toughness, dependability and defense, while shooting over 50 percent from the floor.
But Dosunmu is averaging just 2.8 assists, down from last season’s 3.3 per game, and shooting 32.6 percent from 3-point range. That’s down from last season’s 3-point percentage of 37.6.
The Bulls’ interest in Russell Westbrook should the veteran point guard reach a buyout from the Utah Jazz is legitimate. In fact, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski called them “a front-runner” to land Westbrook last week. Patrick Beverley’s camp and the Bulls also have had conversations, a source said, after the Marshall High product reached agreement on a buyout from the Orlando Magic. John Wall is another player to monitor.
Does Dosunmu take all this interest in veteran point guards personally?
“At the end of the day, I just have to come out here and try to do whatever I can to help the team win. When I’m on the court, I try to do that. That’s always been my motto,” Dosunmu said following Monday’s morning shootaround at the Advocate Center. “I’m going to continue to learn. I’m going to continue to get better. I’m going to continue to watch film to ultimately try to help the team. That’s my job. So that’s where I stand with that.”
Dosunmu has started 86 of his 131 career games, an unforeseen development that is a byproduct, of course, of Lonzo Ball’s longstanding absence. The Morgan Park High product placed a huge emphasis on getting stronger last offseason so as to handle whatever role and minutes came his way after he admittedly wore down somewhat in the stretch run of his rookie season.
“You put a lot of work into the offseason to try to get stronger as the season continues. I feel like early in the season, you’re looking forward to play that many games. It’s easy to get motivated. But now, in the thick and thin of the season when it’s hard to get wins and everybody is trying to control their destiny and get to the playoffs, this is the time you have to lock in mentally,” Dosunmu said. “Personally myself, I feel I’m getting stronger. I’m trying to continue to get better and finish the season off right.”
Dosunmu is indeed closing this dog-days stretch of the season before the All-Star break in strong fashion. Over six February games, he’s averaging 11.8 points and 4 assists with just 1.5 turnovers while shooting 58 percent overall and 41.7 percent from 3-point range.
“I always trust in my abilities,” Dosunmu said. “I also understand there are things I can get better at and will get better. That comes with experience. Keep watching film. I think experience is the biggest teacher. The more games I’m out there getting more comfortable and trying to do what’s not only best for me but for the team, I think I’ll continue to get better.
“I feel like I got a lot better since last year. I want to keep trying to show that and try to win as many games as possible down the stretch.”
Dosunmu also believes he has shown growth as a lead guard.
“Just feeling comfortable out there and not just bringing the ball up but making reads in pick-and-rolls, getting downhill. Just feeling more comfortable playing with three bonafide All-Stars and try to find my ways to score and when to facilitate,” he said. “I think that’s what I’ve gotten better at.”
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