After two years of struggle Ayo Dosunmu is now vital for the Chicago Bulls

After two years of struggle Ayo Dosunmu is now vital for the Chicago Bulls

Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu never was going to let one down year change the way he approaches the game.

Last season was the hard side of the learning curve for Dosunmu. After winning over Chicago Bulls fans with a breakout rookie season in 2021-22, he fell out of the starting lineup and watched his minutes dwindle as he struggled with his shot.

Dosunmu’s usage continued to decline early this season as he battled for playing time in the second rotation with Jevon Carter and Alex Caruso. Dosunmu averaged barely 11 minutes in the first five games.

But he remained efficient during his time on the court, shooting 51.1% from the field and tallying 1.4 steals per 36 minutes. And when a handful of injuries last week threw him back into the regular rotation — and briefly into the starting lineup — Dosunmu embraced the moment to help power the Bulls to consecutive wins.

In Saturday’s victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, Dosunmu reaffirmed all the reasons he can make an impact on this team: wreaking havoc on defense, snagging steals, and streaking up the court for transition dunks.

“As difficult as last year was for him, it may have been the best thing for his development,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t think anybody’s growth in their career is an upward trajectory all the time. There are peaks and valleys. There are ups and downs. There are difficulties. Those are the situations you learn in.”

Dosunmu can be a catalyst for the Bulls. He snaps immediately from defense to offense once a rebound is secured, pressing the opponent onto its heels to score in transition.

Playing at full speed never has been a problem for Dosunmu. Sometimes, Donovan noted, the biggest issue is getting the rest of the Bulls to match his pace in the open court.

But this season Dosunmu has added a layer of restraint that’s critical to his playmaking — pushing the pace upcourt, then pulling back behind the arc if there isn’t a clear path to the basket or numbers advantage in transition.

This discretion builds trust and gives the Bulls a higher offensive IQ when Dosunmu has the ball.

“His tempo is changing,” Donovan said. “He’s reading the floor. He’s setting things up a lot better. He’s giving himself a chance to create more penetration, which is where he’s good. He’s making decisions and he’s doing a really good job.”

After his second season, Dosunmu quickly identified areas he needed to improve: sharpening his 3-point shot, improving defensive closeouts, building confidence on the ball, and moving better without it.

Dosunmu entered this season with plenty of goals, but his primary one centered on the team — and living up to his role within it.

“This season my main goal is to be able to play in the playoffs,” Dosunmu told the Tribune during training camp. “That’s a long-term goal. As a player, I want to be able to contribute in the playoffs because I know I can help the team win.

“If that happens, it means I’m doing everything within the season — making my shots, getting downhill, making plays, playing with confidence, playing with joy, being tenacious on the ball, being a good teammate.”