Bulls coach Billy Donovan petitioning for Ayo Dosunmu in Rising Stars game

Dosunmu doesn’t have the numbers of some of the other rookies in his draft class, but his value and play cannot be ignored.

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Ayo Dosunmu doesn’t have the minutes of the Raptors’ Scottie Barnes, the scoring of the Pistons’ Cade Cunningham or the interior defensive impact of the Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley, but try telling Bulls coach Billy Donovan that Dosunmu, the second-round pick from Illinois, isn’t one of the top rookies this season.

“I think he’s played as good as any rookie in this league,” Donovan said Friday. “I’m not going to get into the talent or who’s better, who is more talented, who is having a better year, but from what I’ve seen, I think we would all have to agree that if the draft took place today, he’s undoubtedly a first-round draft pick, minimum. We feel really fortunate that we could end up at that point and time, selecting where we did, to get a player like him. And I think he’s done an amazing job, really all year long, but certainly with some of the guys we’ve had out [and] what he’s had to do absorbing minutes.”

Donovan would like to see Dosunmu get a chance to take part in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend next month. There’s a new format this year: Instead of Team World vs. Team USA, there will be a pool of 12 rookies, 12 second-year players and four G-League Ignite players, broken into four teams to play a mini tournament.

Donovan is hoping Dosunmu’s value as a defender, along with his versatility in playing either guard spot, makes him a candidate for the rookie group. But no matter how that plays out, he’s thrilled to have the former Morgan Park standout on his team.

“A lot of times, second-round draft picks don’t automatically play,” Donovan said. “Now, I think two things: One, Ayo has really earned his way, so he’s on the floor because he’s earned it. And then, obviously we’ve had COVID and different issues we’ve had to deal with, and he’s stepped up. But I think you could probably tell right from the beginning [that] people had an unbelievable amount of respect for him, even going back to training camp before we ever played a game.”

Dosunmu remained in the starting lineup in place of Lonzo Ball on Friday night against the Spurs and likely will stay there after Ball had knee surgery Friday morning that will keep him out six to eight weeks.

Captain speaking

Donovan said he loved the moment — captured in a now-widely seen video — when guard Zach LaVine took control of the intercom system on a team flight to announce that teammate DeMar DeRozan had been named an All-Star starter.

“It was great,” Donovan said. “[LaVine] flipped on the lights. I think it speaks to the bond and chemistry that those two guys have with one another. 

“I’m personally really happy for DeMar. He has played incredibly well for us the entire year. Certainly provided great leadership and great play on the court. I think people got a chance to see his commitment to his teammates with what he did for Ayo and going to his jersey retirement [ceremony at Illinois]. It also speaks to Zach that he was just as happy for DeMar as well, which was great to see on the plane.”

Not too much, now

The Bulls continue to restrict Javonte Green’s minutes after his return from a groin injury this past week. His limit of 23-25 minutes the first two games was increased to 24-26 against the Spurs. Donovan said the plan is to add minutes “incrementally.”

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