The NBA season is still going, with the “real” playoffs just getting underway. For those teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs, the draft lottery awaits on June 22nd. What I’m trying to say is there’s a looooooooong way to go until the NBA Draft. But a talent evaluator’s job is never done until the draft actually takes place, and many scouts and analysts seem torn about Illini guard Ayo Dosunmu.
Ayo declared for the draft on ESPN and officially signed with an agent in April, ending his time at Illinois after three glorious, legend-making seasons. He’ll also have the chance to workout and interview with teams during June’s NBA Draft Combine, an opportunity Ayo was not afforded last year due to COVID-19 precautions.
So which franchise is the likely landing spot for him? That answer is still a bit unclear.
A crafty combo guard who has the ball on a string and controls the pace of the game ... Ayo is always under control and can orchestrate an offense or take over the game when needed. He excels at taking his man off the bounce and getting into the lane where he can put multiple moves on defenders...or find the open man after collapsing the defense. He gets great width on his crossover dribble and has a lot of wiggle and a quick first step.
Ayo changes speeds well, has a great hesitation move and euro-step, especially in transition, allowing the defense to fly by. Although he’s not a big time leaper, he’s very creative with his ability to finish in the lane. He gets his shot up quick to beat the shot blocker or uses an up and under move or reverses the layup to use the rim as protection.
Ayo projects more as a complimentary player at the next level, a player that would probably provide more value to a contending team rather than a rebuilding club such as OKC. Ultimately, going to a team like the Nuggets could be an ideal match for Dosunmu. Jamal Murray is the main guy in Denver’s backcourt and Ayo might fit in nicely as a rotational guard.
The Nets have assembled a “super team” with the trio of James Harden, Kyrie Irving & Kevin Durant. Simply put, Brooklyn expects to win championships. Those three aren’t going anywhere so the Nets will certainly be a contender in the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future. Ayo could flourish as a secondary piece. And being coached by Steve Nash — one of the greatest point guards in NBA history — and Mike D’Antoni — one of the best offensive minds in NBA history — is nothing to sneeze at, either.
The Clippers are also a franchise trying to assemble a roster ready to win — Kawhi Leonard & Paul George are perennial All-Stars, while Rajon Rondo, Serge Ibaka & Patrick Beverley are also longstanding, tough-minded vets with plenty of playoff experience who could serve as mentors for a promising young rookie.
What We Know (So Far)
Anybody that’s watched Ayo play the past three years knows that he is a relentless worker. He’s undaunted attacking the basket in traffic and drawing contact. Ayo may need to adjust his release point, but he is very comfortable with the mid-range jumper (an “inefficient” shot in today’s modern game) and has vastly improved his stroke from beyond the arc. Dosunmu is an unselfish player — sometimes to his own detriment — but wants the ball in his hands in late-game scenarios.
The consensus seems to be that Ayo will be a serviceable pro, albeit not a superstar. With a late-first-round grade, Dosunmu won’t be saddled with unreasonable expectations to be an immediate impact player. However, as Fighting Illini fans have witnessed, he certainly wouldn’t shy away from the pressure. Best of luck to Ayo wherever he may go.
The 2021 NBA Draft airs Thursday, July 29th on ESPN & ABC.