Ayo Dosunmu caps stellar rookie campaign with All-Rookie honors

If the 2021 NBA draft was redone, at least according to a media voting panel, the Bulls have themselves a lottery pick.

That's because Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu, the 38th selection in last year's NBA draft, was named part of the 2022 NBA All-Rookie team, a second-team selection.

Dosunmu became the lowest selected player to make All-Rookie just behind New Orleans' Herb Jones, also a second-round selection at No. 35. The other second-teamers were Denver's Bones Hyland at No. 26, Indiana's Chris Duarte at No. 13 and Oklahoma City's Josh Giddey at No. 6.

The first-teamers generally were the top drafted players from last year with Scottie Barnes (4), Cade Cunningham (1) and Evan Mobley (3), all unanimous choices. Jalen Green (2) and Franz Wagner (8), the latter to Orlando with the pick they acquired in the Nikola Vucevic trade, filled out the first-team.

Dosunmu is the 25th player in Bulls franchise history to be named all-rookie. Patrick Williams made second-team last year and Coby White in 2020.

Ayo Dosunmu finishes off a clutch dunk in the final moments of a regular-season game to defeat the Indiana Pacers.

"I didn't have specific expectations," Dosunmu said last month following the Bulls playoff defeat against the Milwaukee Bucks. "I just wanted to come out here and I knew if I put the work into my game whatever happened would happen. Now I have a whole season under my belt. I know how it is to play in the playoffs, I know how it is to play a whole season. Now I can set expectations to get better from Year 1.

"You have to always have that next game mentality, that next play mentality," the 6-4 guard from the University of Illinois said about what he learned. "That's the best thing that helped me throughout this NBA season, having that mindset of you play good, you play bad, the next game you have be able to adjust and be able to get better."

Dosunmu quickly got better and was a surprise starter for the Bulls, especially following injuries to starting point guard Lonzo Ball and reserve Alex Caruso. Dosunmu came into training camp after an uneven Summer League (he expects to play in Summer League again in July) not likely a rotation player who was anticipating learning time with the Windy City Bulls in the G-league.

But Dosunmu ended up starting 40 games, fifth most on the team. Among all NBA rookies, he was eighth in scoring at 8.8 per game, but first overall in shooting at 52 percent, second in three-point percentage at 37.6 percent and fourth in assists at 3.3 per game. He was fourth overall in total minutes played for the Bulls during the season.

Ayo Dosunmu guarding Detroit Pistons No 1 overall selection Cade Cunningham.

The first evidence that Dosunmu was ready for more than anticipated was just seven games into the season and just three games after a DNP and two after going scoreless. Dosunmu made all six of his field-goal attempts against the Boston Celtics, now in the conference finals, in a big Bulls comeback win. Dosunmu finished with 14 points in 22 minutes.

A week later he had 15 points in a lopsided win over the celebrated Brooklyn Nets in the Bulls fast start that counted the among the league leaders into the second part of the season. Dosunmu's quiet confidence and aplomb gave Bulls coach Billy Donovan the confidence to often play the long armed Dosunmu against some of the best offensive players in the NBA.

"He's got a certain kind of makeup that I think is really special," Donovan said earlier this season. "He's ultra competitive and he has unbelievable confidence and belief in himself. But it's not cross-the-line arrogant. He just is fearless. And he's got a way about him with the way he competes defensively. He's not afraid. I really love coaching him because you can really talk to him in a way that he wants the truth. He wants to get better. He wants to grow. He wants to hear what he has got to do to improve. For me as a coach, when you see a young man with that much hunger and desire to want to be good, he wants to hear it all and I really respect that about him. It's his makeup; it's who he is. There may be guys that shoot it better, there may be guys that are faster than him or more athletic than him. But he has got a big heart and he competes and he makes a lot of timely plays that impact winning."

Dosunmu also gained high regard from Bulls star DeMar DeRozan, who would attend Dosunmu's jersey retirement ceremony in Champaign during the winter.

DeMar DeRozan attended Ayo Dosunmu's jersey retirement ceremony at the University of Illinois during the season.

"I remember watching him in college and the toughness that he brought," DeRozan said during the season about Dosunmu. "Joining a team and getting to know him, his personality, the humbleness that he carries himself with along with the toughness, he's definitely one of a kind. He's definitely the epitome of a Chicago kid."

Dosunmu became a regular Bulls starter January 15 in a loss at Boston. But he had 21 points and 10 assists playing 40 minutes. That came shortly after a win at Washington when he made seven of nine field goals and three of four threes. Later in January in a narrow win over the Thunder and highly regarded Giddey, Dosunmu scored 24 points, making 10-of-14 field goals with four of six threes.

With the injuries, Donovan came to depend on Dosunmu more as Dosunmu was selected for the All-Star weekend Rising Stars game. In a four-game stretch leading to the All-Star break, Dosunmu scored in double figures each game averaging 40 minutes playing time. Dosunmu also became adept at bouncing back, going scoreless in 22 minutes against Memphis after the All-Star break, but then scoring 18 points the following game in a loss at Miami.

Dosunmu had a season high 26 points in a closing win in Minnesota when both teams weren't playing regulars.

Dosunmu appeared to tire some after the All-Star break in averaging more than 30 minutes per game, and even Donovan acknowledged after the season he probably pushed the rookie too hard. Dosunmu averaged 8.1 points before the All-Star break and 10.4 after. But his three-point shooting dropped from 41 percent before to 31 percent after. Dosunmu had a difficult playoffs against the Bucks, averaging four points and shooting 23 percent on threes, and 31 percent overall in about 17 minutes per game.

But a surprising and impressive, all-rookie season overall.

"Definitely I enjoyed the experience and I think maybe my situation was different than a lot of people because I live," said the Chicago native from Morgan Park High School after his season ending exit interview with the team. "My circle, my mom, dad, aunts, uncle, sister, brother, they are all pretty much understand what the end goal is and they are excited to make sure I always put myself in the best position and am always making good quality decisions. That's definitely something you have to have when playing in your home town. You have to make quality decisions and not worry about a lot of that outside noise. I have a place close to downtown, so I don't really leave downtown; that's really my whole time. I don't really go past White Sox park at all (Guaranteed Rate Field). So really just focused on the season, focused on myself. I lived here my whole life, so I understand the ins and outs of the city. But just having a great support system and great people supporting me and always instilling in me at a young age to make quality decisions; that helped me a lot."

Bulls All-Rookie players since last championship (first-teamers in bold):

Ayo Dosunmu, 2022
Patrick Williams, 2021
Coby White, 2020
Lauri Markkanen, 2018
Nikola Mirotic, 2015
Taj Gibson, 2010
Derrick Rose, 2009
Tyrus Thomas, 2007
Ben Gordon, 2005
Luol Deng, 2005
Kirk Hinrich, 2004
Jay Williams, 2003
Marcus Fizer, 2001
Ron Artest, 2000
Elton Brand, 2000