Why Kendall Gill expects leap from Dosunmu in Year 2 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Kendall Gill has been watching Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu since the latter’s AAU days. The two share plenty of connections, from their hometown of Chicago to their college alma mater Illinois.
And the 15-year NBA veteran turned NBC Sports Chicago Bulls analyst knows one thing for certain.
“Each year he (Dosunmu) has gotten better, ever since I started watching him play,” Gill said on the latest episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast. “And I think this year will be the same.”
This year will be Dosunmu’s second in the NBA after being drafted by his hometown team with the 38th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Although that second-round status led to many tempering expectations for his rookie year, Dosunmu quickly gained head coach Billy Donovan’s trust — and the fanbase’s adulation — with defense, competitiveness and high-IQ play, rising from deep reserve to fourth on the Bulls in total minutes.
Dosunmu started 41 games as a rookie, averaging 8.8 points, 3.3 assists and earning both second-team All-Rookie honors and a spot in the 2022 Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend.
“I think that he got a taste of what it's like to be a major player in this league, and that he liked it,” Gill said. “Now he just put in the extra work this summer to take it to another level.”
Dosunmu is already on an elite trajectory at the defensive end, where he was long, physical and savvy as a screen navigator from Day 1. He also distinguished himself with film study, which has already manifested in early-career success against star assignments.
“He’s the only guy that I've seen in the league, one-on-one, give Trae Young problems,” Gill said of Dosunmu. “I believe he can be an All-Defense guy.”
The next step, in Gill's view, is cleaning up some shooting mechanics in his guide hand. Dosunmu shot 37.6 percent from 3-point range as a rookie, but on low volume (2.4 attempts per game) and without attracting significant defensive attention.
But his defense, floor-reading ability and confidence are all ahead of schedule, which will be essential for the Bulls — and especially so if they endure a spate of injuries similar to last season. Lonzo Ball’s status for the start of training camp, for one, remains a mystery as he continues to battle a nebulous knee ailment.
“Yes, [the Bulls] have Zach LaVine, All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, All-Star, Nikola Vučević, former All-Star. But the key guy is Lonzo. If something happens with him, then we’re gonna suffer,” Gill said. “Now, with Ayo taking that next step, if Lonzo's knee is not 100 percent, now I'm comfortable with Ayo, putting him in the starting lineup with these guys.”
The Bulls hope injuries and lineup shuffling aren't again the norm. But expect Dosunmu to be ready for anything.