Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu’s toughest challenge is the depth chart
The former Illinois standout has been used as a combo guard through the first week of training camp, but will his toughness and aggression help earn him real minutes when the regular-season games start?
The regular-season depth chart is the bad news for Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu. He’s not completely buried on it, but the dirt is at least waist-deep.
At point guard, Dosunmu is behind Lonzo Ball, Coby White and Alex Caruso. At shooting guard, he’s behind All-Star Zach LaVine, White, Caruso and even Troy Brown Jr.
What Dosunmu — who played at Morgan Park and Illinois — should be focused on, however, is that he has two more weeks to change minds.
The Bulls start their exhibition season Tuesday against the Cavaliers at the United Center and will look to get playing time for a good chunk of their roster, including Dosunmu.
And while a strong showing in the exhibition season likely won’t change Dosunmu’s position in the current rotation, it might go a long way in building trust once the games count — trust that Dosunmu can get playing time off the bench and trust that he can be a player who has a promising future with his hometown team.
‘‘He’s pretty damn good,’’ veteran forward DeMar DeRozan said when he was asked about his camp impressions of Dosunmu. ‘‘I remember him in college, as well, and watching him play all through the Summer League. Very tough, very tough. Creative with the ball. Aggressive. Great touch around the rim. His ability to score the ball is amazing. Every single day he goes out there to take on the challenge to compete. Nothing but high praise for him.’’
That praise might carry weight.
With White still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and possibly a month away from a full return, Dosunmu is one of the candidates to get his minutes.
And even when White returns and is healthy, other injuries can happen, so depth at both guard spots will be a necessity.
‘‘I’ve been really impressed with him,’’ coach Billy Donovan said of Dosunmu. ‘‘Not about the way necessarily he’s played — and he’s played well — [but] just his disposition, just his competitiveness, just his mindset, the way he throws himself in there and the way he competes.
‘‘He’s really, really crafty at being able to get by people and around people and to the rim. I think his three-point shooting will improve, as all guys do up here, over time.
‘‘But . . . I love guys with that kind of mentality. You know, talking about Alex [Caruso], talking about [Dosunmu], there’s a toughness and a competitiveness to those guys that they’re just not afraid. I think Ayo’s got that.’’
That might be Dosunmu’s best path to playing time. It’s safe to say the Bulls didn’t really intimidate opponents in terms of toughness last season, something the front office addressed in the offseason makeover.
Even if it means playing with the G-League’s Windy City Bulls just to get minutes and stay in game shape, Dosunmu said he’s all-in for whatever is asked of him.
‘‘Being a rookie, this is the best time to absorb as much knowledge as I can because there’s not going to be much asked of me,’’ he said. ‘‘Anything that I want, I have to go out and prove each and every day in practice. That’s what I’m trying to do.
‘‘I talk with a lot of guys. I ask a ton of questions. Just trying to get better each and every day. That’s all it is. Each and every practice, getting in the best shape I can be, being the best teammate I can be. Because in an 82-game season, be ready whenever my number is called.’’