Time for Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu to adjust to league’s adjustment

The days of leaving the second-year guard wide open have come to an end, and Dosunmu admittedly has seen the adjustment teams are making.

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Ayo Dosunmu

Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu started to smile before the question was finished. He has been having this conversation almost daily with his coaches and teammates.

“Yeah, for sure, the days of [opponents] leaving me wide open, those are over,” he said. “It feels like they’re done with that.”

On one hand, it should be a compliment for Dosunmu, the former Morgan Park and Illinois standout, that other NBA teams now have to game-plan for him on the perimeter. On the other hand, it means he’s now part of the chess game in his second season, and it’s on him to anticipate next moves before they happen.

That’s where he’s at now — adjusting to the adjustment.

“Teams have definitely been watching the film and closing out more, but that’s just more recognition of the work that I put in over the summer and so far this season,” Dosunmu said. “Now it’s about making that next stride, making that next step.”

At Illinois, the three-pointer was only an accessory to Dosunmu’s game. He occasionally took the shots but didn’t rely on them, shooting 39% on only 82 attempts in his final season — far fewer than in the previous two. During the 2018-19 season, he attempted 142 threes.

Could he develop into a threat from outside? That was one of the concerns as he entered the NBA, resulting in him dropping from first-round consideration to the 38th overall pick in the second round.

But what the scouts missed on was Dosunmu’s work ethic. He not only asks tons of questions but also knows how to put the answers into practical use.

That’s what the summer was about. Dosunmu knew Lonzo Ball’s knee was an issue — although maybe not to the extent it has become — and that there could be a vacancy at starting point guard. So he started grinding almost immediately after the Bucks eliminated the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs in April. Atop his priority list was making himself a threat from three-point range after shooting 37.6% last season on an average of 2.4 attempts per game.

The Bulls saw the payoff when camp started. Dosunmu then shot 55% from three-point range over four preseason games and carried it into the start of the regular season, shooting 46% on a healthy four attempts per game over the first six games.

The rest of the league took note; defenses have played him tighter and his numbers have dwindled. He’ll enter Sunday’s game against the Nuggets shooting 30.4% from three-point range on an average of 3.8 attempts over his last six games.

“That’s the game, making that next adjustment,” Dosunmu said. “It’s about me taking the open ones, making the open ones, but also knowing when to play off the closeout and read it better.”

Coach Billy Donovan has been stressing that to him: Be a threat from outside, but also attack the closeouts more consistently by going to the rim or simply moving the ball to open spaces. In other words, see the chess board more clearly.

“There’s so much I’m working on: defense, passing, my shot from outside,” Dosunmu said. “That’s been a big part of my game — my development. Now I have to keep figuring out different ways to manipulate the offense, manipulate the game for my team.’’

NOTE: The NBA fined Bulls center Nikola Vucevic $15,000 for flashing his middle finger at someone in the stands during the first quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the Pelicans.

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