Bulls Insider

How Bulls' preseason reserves are making case for larger roles

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Bulls Insider

All any NBA player can do is make the most of his opportunity.

When the Chicago Bulls get healthy, who knows what kind of role Ayo Dosunmu, Alize Johnson and Derrick Jones Jr. will have in Billy Donovan's rotation? But this is indisputable: Until Coby White, Tony Bradley and Patrick Williams return from injury, each player is making an impact.

And it's making alphas on the Bulls take notice.

"He doesn't have any fear at all, offensively or defensively," Zach LaVine said of the rookie Dosunmu. "He asks a whole bunch of questions. He probably asks more questions than any rookie I've been around, on- and off-the-court subjects. So he wants to learn.

"Dude is stone cold. Doesn't care about the situation. Going in there, he's going to play his heart out. He showed that (Sunday against the Cavaliers). He pretty much won us the game."

Indeed, Dosunmu scored the Bulls' final two baskets, including the go-ahead points on a tough, baseline floater over 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall in the Bulls' 102-101 victory over the Cavaliers. The second-round pick and Chicago native out of Illinois finished with nine points in seven minutes and continued to look much more poised than he did in some inconsistent summer-league minutes.

LaVine's praise for Dosunmu followed that of DeMar DeRozan from earlier in training camp. And Alex Caruso had previously alluded to Dosunmu's penchant for peppering veterans with questions, trying to soak up as much championship experience from Caruso as possible.

 

"This is the best time to absorb as much knowledge as I can because coming right in, there’s not going to be much asked of me," Dosunmu 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."

Johnson recently uttered similar sentiments. He posted 14 points and 11 rebounds in 18 minutes against the Cavaliers and continued to display his penchant for often being around the ball. Despite being undersized, he has flashed elite rebounding potential at times.

"I have great respect for him because he's in there with Tacko Fall battling his tail off. And he's in there against (Evan) Mobley and (Jarrett) Allen and how does this guy come down with rebounds?" Donovan said. "He's just got a tenacious attitude."

To the point it begs the question: Who is the backup center when Bradley returns from his back injury? Bradley has yet to play this preseason.

The Bulls are undersized and, at 6-10, Bradley is the only traditional big man on the roster past starting center Nikola Vučević. But the way Johnson is taking advantage of this opportunity, it may present Donovan with a rotational decision depending on matchups.

"I don't worry about (size) with him because the one thing about Alize is he has rebounded at every level he's been at, whether it's been high school, college or now the NBA. So that's just what he's going to do," Donovan said. "Now the rim protection, you don't get that. But you get other things.

"I have not noticed that we've really gotten hurt with his size. There may be times where we do. Let's hopefully get Tony back healthy if we do need some size. But (Alize) is in there and battles and fights and holds his own against anybody. You saw him in there (Sunday) standing in the lane with a lot of big guys. He's in there still coming down with rebounds because he's incredibly active.

"You have to account for him. He's just so aggressive, a quick jumper. The things you see him doing in these games, he's doing in practice."

Jones also helped flip the momentum of Sunday's preseason with an active reserve stint that featured 10 points and four rebounds in 16 minutes. He missed the preseason opener with ankle soreness but has made enough of an impression the last two games — and in practice — to suggest the Bulls' depth could be less of an issue as first believed.

"He's been really good. He fits in with everything," LaVine said of Jones. "He's extremely athletic obviously and creates a lot of mismatches offensively and defensively that we can exploit. He plays at the dunker (spot), cuts really well. Blocks shots."

Donovan has always shown an inclination to go nine- or 10-men deep in his rotation. It can, and likely will, change with this team as the season evolves. But there's potential here with the Bulls' second unit. 

 

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