The third-year point guard is looking to bounce back from what he calls a "sophomore slump"
By Drew Stevens
Ayo Dosunmu came out of the gates swinging as the 38th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, assuming point guard duties on the fly while helping himself to Second-Team All-Rookie honors.
The counterpunch the league threw in response, however, slumped his sophomore season to the point where he saw nearly eight fewer minutes of playing time as he was moved to the bench in favor of Patrick Beverley after the All-Star break.
That, coupled with the addition of Jevon Carter and the growth of Coby White, threatens to leave Dosunmu on the outskirts of the rotation with the Chicago Bulls set to open the 2023-2024 season three weeks from Wednesday. To say nothing of him having to wrestle White and Carter for the right to start alongside Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vučević and a power forward to be named later.
But what some people call obstacles, Dosunmu calls opportunities.
“Every drill. Every scrimmage. I’m here to compete,” Dosunmu told The Bigs following the team’s first day of training camp Tuesday.
“I’m here to give my all.”
Effort has never been an issue, though, which is likely part of the reason why the notoriously tight-fisted franchise felt comfortable signing Dosunmu to a three-year contract that will pay him, on average, nearly $2 million more than the qualifying offer he was extended in June.
Neither has his defense — the 6-foot-5, 200-pound pain in the neck held opponents to 44% shooting as the closest defender last season, ranking in the top 10 among players to defend at least 700 shots, according to Second Spectrumand ESPN Stats & Information.
The burning question is can Dosunmu, who shot 31.2% on 186 three-point attempts last season, 162 of which he launched without a defender within six feet of him, make opposing defenses pay for their preoccupation with his former All-Star teammates and his burst with the ball.
“I know I’m very fast,” Dosunmu said, “so I know teams are scouting for that.”
To the extent that he can also do so by attacking closeouts to drive to the rim or create for others, the answer won’t be exclusively tied to his success from beyond the arc.
But Dosunmu finding his way back to above-average three-point marksmanship could very well decide his position on the totem pole. Especially with his stiffest competition for playing time, White (37.9%) and Carter (41%), both having shot upwards of 37% from deep the past two seasons.
“It was my job to get in the gym and really try to adjust to see what I could do better,” Dosunmu said. The best players in the world, they always try to find a way to take away your strength. That’s one thing that I did a lot this summer, is really try to focus on ways that I could be more effective.”
When asked for specifics, Dosunmu mentioned keeping the defense on its heels in transition, making better decisions with the ball in his hands and shooting with more confidence — something Carter, who faced the Bulls 15 times the past two seasons as a member of the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, singled out as one of the team’s weaknesses during Media Day Monday.
In the grand scheme of things, whether or not the 23-year-old is still in his warmup attire during opening tipoffs this season is as besides the point as him having started 43 more games than Carter and 17 more games than White in his career.
But Dosunmu intends to get his lick back.
“Being in the league two years, going through success my first year, then seeing kind of a slump and how teams were kind of adjusting. Now it’s about me making the next adjustment.”