Welcome to the Ayo Dosunmu edition of a Bulls mailbag. We’ll summarize the roughly 113 questions about Dosunmu with the following three and then tackle other subjects. But I’d also like to shout out Tomek G. from Poland for sending in a question that I answered in a slightly different form over two questions and answers.
Do you think Ayo Dosunmu will still get decent minutes when Coby White comes back? Maybe use a three-guard rotation with Alex Caruso off the bench? --- Jordan B.
Here’s what we know about Billy Donovan rotations, past and present: He’s not afraid of playing small. He utilized three-guard lineups often during his final season with the Thunder to great success. And he prefers to go nine or 10 players deep.
Currently, the rotation sits at nine. Donovan said before the Mavericks game that whenever White debuts, he will do so playing fewer minutes than he averaged last season and that the rotation will likely go 10 deep. So you can make a case for Dosunmu sticking.
How that plays out as White gets acclimated, and what combination Donovan and his staff deem appropriate long-term, is unknown. If it’s a full reserve lineup, are you comfortable with the three guards you mention plus Derrick Jones Jr. and Tony Bradley? Do you stagger DeMar DeRozan to play the four?
If Dosunmu stays in the rotation, somebody’s minutes will suffer. I’d guess Javonte Green or Derrick Jones Jr. Stay tuned.
We all know Ayo has impressed so far this season. But what do you think he'll look like on the court by next season and how do you see him growing in order to expand his role on a crowded roster? --- Evan N.
He has surprised me with his ability to finish, although you always can improve on that at this level. But another, holistic aspect of the Bulls rookie that has really stood out is his ability to look inward and improve.
Dosunmu admittedly had trouble navigating screens during Summer League. But he has put in a ton of film study and on-court work and improved dramatically in that regard. And in the aforementioned finishing category, he has talked about studying Zach LaVine’s ability to use his body to create space and then shoot high off the glass over length.
For next season, I won’t be surprised to see him return as a better shooter and with an increased ability to get to the free-throw line.
Do you think the Bulls should keep Coby White since he is about to return? Or trade him? With the emergence of Ayo, Coby may be lost in rotation. Where would you trade him? Maybe trade him for a big? --- Princeton J.
I would not trade Coby White. But I’m also a beat writer, not an executive. And I’m typically bad when I try to be something I’m not.
That said, here’s why I wouldn’t trade White: He has improved over the course of both seasons he has been in the league. He has a unique ability to score in bunches. He’s a team-first guy who works hard and adds a certain spirit to the locker room. And all teams need shooting.
He also, at least for now, remains on his affordable rookie contract. He is eligible for an extension following this season. And perhaps management won’t want to commit big, long-term money to White. If that is the case, then you should try to deal him for an asset this season. But I think White’s best basketball remains in front of him.
A friend said to me recently that Nikola Vučević is the most important player on the team. When I started to disagree, he said he didn't mean "best," but "most irreplaceable" because of our lack of big men. I think he's right. Bradley is a good backup. But if Vučević gets injured, it could be tough for Bradley to go from not in the rotation to even 16-20 minutes a night as the starter.
That got me thinking: Do you see AKME making a move to bring in another big? Maybe after Dec. 15 when more players are available and when they've also had more of a look at this squad? One guy that intrigues me is Marvin Bagley. He's barely playing in Sacramento and seems to want out. I think he still has real potential and could fit into the second unit nicely, especially if he's re-energized by a move. Any chance? --- Geoff R.
I’m not a big Bagley fan. And as the former No. 2 overall pick, the Kings would ask for a decent return. What assets do the Bulls have beyond possibly White, especially with their depleted draft capital?
I see the Bulls riding out Patrick Williams’ injury for now. Perhaps they explore the market for bigs closer to the trade deadline when you’ve seen a larger body of work from White and decided what your future plans are for him. If Vučević goes down, yikes. You’d be right and the acute need for size likely would prompt swifter action.
Do you see a problem when Zach’s playing with tunnel vision when he’s upset or the team is struggling to score? Seems to happen often and seems like it doesn’t help the team. --- Tristion M.
The road loss in Philadelphia is the most egregious example of this dynamic. As I’ve said and written many times before, LaVine’s growth in this department is significant. And he now has more talented teammates to lessen this habit even more. As of this writing, LaVine’s turnovers are down a full turnover per game over last season. And he’s averaging 25.9 points off the second-best true shooting percentage of his career. He’s not a problem.
The Bulls are obviously off to an awesome start. But in your mind, what tier are they in? Do you put them up with the Nets and Bucks? Or am I placing way too much stock in the start? ---Tim G.
Don’t you have a band to go see or something?
I picked the Bulls to win 45 games. That likely would place them in the second tier of teams. I still have reservations about their size and shooting. That said, the East is off to a funky start, particularly with the Bucks missing players and struggling. In this early period, the Bulls are one of four teams to have both a top-10 offense and defense. Whether that holds or not, the style of play is set and it will keep them competitive more nights than not. I think they’re going to have a very good regular season.
The Bulls are [8-3] and have some high-profile wins in this young season. While they still have plenty of room to grow offensively and defensive questions will last all season, they are currently top 10 league wide in both categories. They’ve gotten key contributions from guys farther down in the rotation, while DeMar and Zach have looked like All-Stars. Is this success sustainable or should Bulls fans brace for a crash? --- Nick P
Talk to me at Thanksgiving. That’s when the schedule eases a bit. They don’t face a team that didn’t at least qualify for last season’s play-in tournament until they travel to Houston for a game the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 24).
That said, I think it’s pretty apparent the Bulls will be competitive most every night, regardless of the opponent.
Is Javonte Green going to be the long-term option to replace PWill as a starter? I love Javonte’s game but sometimes think he's more suited to the energy guy off the bench role. Surely his lack of size will cost us at some point.
Also, any chance you could shout out my Facebook group, UK Chicago Bulls Fans. We've managed to create a little community where we watch the games at 1 a.m or 3 a.m together (virtually). Cheers. --- Matt H.
There you go.
As for Green, I have wondered the same thing. Like many people, he had no chance against Kevin Durant. But he actually had a very solid stat line that game. And the coaching staff loves his activity, athleticism and toughness.
If White plays like gangbusters, might Donovan be tempted to start him in a three-guard lineup and shift DeRozan to power forward? I’d guess that Green sticks.
Greetings from a Bulls fan from Anguilla, Eastern Caribbean! My question pertains to Matt Thomas. He's essentially the only player who hasn't gotten an opportunity to showcase his ability. He hit a few nice shots during preseason and, to me, seems athletic enough to put the ball on the floor and get to his spots. With the inconsistency of our bench scoring, do you think we've missed out on the good 3-point shooting that Thomas can provide? I know the emergence of players like Ayo has taken up rotation space, but I feel like Thomas could be an option for the second unit, even in lineups alongside Coby and other defensive-minded guards/wings when we really need quick offense to break up some of these stagnant periods we go through at times. --- Lennox B.
As Donovan likes to say: “You can’t play them all.” Thomas is the 15th man for a reason. He’s a specialist. And White is on track to soon fill the role you suggest. If he’s not playing now, he certainly won’t play alongside White, as you suggest. (Although Thomas can always hang on to getting thrust into the Mavericks game for the final possession of the first half to help space the floor.)
Been hearing a lot about the new Wilson ball and how that could be contributing to some decreased shooting percentages across the league. Do you think that could be affecting Vooch all around and even Zach from 3? I've seen Bulls fans say it's Vooch adjusting to his role shift but almost all of his looks this year and the same he's been getting his entire career. --- Evan A.
I think it’s just a shooting slump. Most players worked all summer with the new ball. It’s an adjustment, for sure. I asked Lonzo Ball about this topic after the Mavericks game and he said it may be affecting some players but “over time, it’s going to balance out.”
After years of frustrating Bulls teams and front office moves, how has the beat experience changed for the better now that the Bulls are rolling? --- Brandon M.
I say this all the time: The job is the same, win or lose. Cover the team. You definitely can feel an excitement from the fan base surrounding this team. And the players, coaches and executives have been very professional to deal with throughout. But I approached covering the post-dynasty era Bulls the same way I approach covering today’s Bulls. And those post-dynasty era Bulls teams had some colorful characters to cover. Long live Ron Artest. (Sorry, that’s always what I will call him.)
The Bulls had Joakim Noah Night, which was awesome. They had Toni Kukoč Night, which was awesome. Who is next on the list to have a Bulls celebration night? --- Matthew A.
All I know is if it’s not for Neil Funk, something is seriously wrong.
Does it speak volumes that one front office sold their 38th overall pick and had their "post-draft" press conference during the draft because their draft board "dried up" while the current regime found a solid contributor to a playoff team in Ayo Dosunmu at that same pick, 38th overall? --- Raul B.
As did the previous regime when it drafted Chris Duhon with the 38th pick in 2004. Duhon played in 21 playoff games for the Bulls.
After the destruction of the Nets last night, the Bulls have beaten two title contenders in Utah and the Nets convincingly. Do you now believe that the Bulls can win their seventh title within the next two years per my prophecy? --- See Red Fred
If the Bulls win the 2022 or 2023 NBA title, they should hire you as vice president of belief.
Can you explain why you changed your profile picture on your Twitter account? --- Bob S.
I didn’t. Our teenage boys did. They’re in charge of making me look as silly as possible. That’s why the previous one was of me cluelessly wandering in the background of a Trae Young interview looking lost and mildly perturbed (often my natural state). The new one is of a blurry, masked me looking at my laptop rather than a celebratory Zach LaVine. As soon as our younger son saw it, he declared it should be my new avatar because “you look like an idiot.”
For what it’s worth, LaVine likes the photo.