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In year 2, Ayo will get noticed — and then get paid

The Illini great is making a name for himself at the next level.

NBA: Preseason-Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports


You would be hard pressed to write a better script than the one Ayo Dosunmu has experienced thus far. State champ at the high school level. One of the top high school recruits in the country. Stayed home at his state school. Returned it to prominence again. Became a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. National player of the year. Drafted by his hometown team. Named to the All-Rookie team.

And last week? Named the starting point guard of the Chicago Bulls. Fairytale-level stuff right there.

In his freshman campaign at the NBA level, Ayo was mostly asked to distribute, spot up on the wing and play lockdown defense — all of which he did at an exceptional level for a rookie. Not only is he one of the best defenders in his class, but by some measures, he’s already one of the league’s premiere on-ball disruptors. Truly impressive stuff as a rookie.

So what should we expect from the Illini product in year two?

Well, because of a nagging knee issue to Lonzo Ball, he’s immediately thrust into the starting role, winning the job over longtime vet Goran Dragic, Coby White and Alex Caruso. This news shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, as he started in over half of games his first year, but another productive offseason seemed to have cemented that decision for head coach Billy Donovan.

We saw a certain level of chemistry develop between Ayo and DeMar DeRozan, and Ayo and big man Nikola Vucevic last season. He was mostly asked to set the table for the two All-Stars and Zach LaVine when he was healthy, and pick up the opposing team’s best player oftentimes. His two-man game with Vooch looked exceptionally good at times.

He’ll still be asked to distribute the ball to the Bulls’ big three, but I also expect him to look to create his own shot more this year. We saw flashes of it at times last season (see the Thunder game). Now, he’s more acclimated to the speed of the game, and he’s got a full offseason under his belt. I’m not ready to pin him as a 20-point-per-game-scorer or as one of the top options in this offense, but he very well could be the third or fourth.

The mid-range game he’s always had, coupled with above average shooting from deep and stealing a bucket or two through his defensive prowess should lead to about a dozen points per game on efficient averages. Throw in another couple boards and assists, and you’re looking at a solid rotational player in the league who also plays stellar D.

He isn’t going to receive any All-NBA team votes this year, but a successful rookie season has Ayo Dosunmu ready to build on it as a sophomore. He’s a great ambassador for the Illinois program, and whether or not he sticks with the Bulls the rest of his career, one thing is certain: he’s about to get PAID.