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2021 NBA Draft Coverage: Ayo Dosunmu

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Is one of the best college players a good fit for the Jazz?

Loyola Chicago v Illinois Photo by Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Ayo Dosunmu is one of the odder prospects in this year’s draft. The leading scorer on the Midwest one-seed Illinois team that got upset by eight seeded Loyola-Chicago and Cameron Krutwig, he’s been mocked anywhere from the 20th pick to the 42nd pick in the mock drafts I’m tracking, despite winning the 2021 Bob Cousy award for top point guard in the NCAA. (Previous winners: Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton, Dee Brown, Acie Law, DJ Augustin, Ty Lawson, Greivis Vasquez, Kemba Walker, Kendall Marshall, Trey Burke, Shabazz Napier, Delon Wright, Tyler Ulis, Frank Mason III, Jalen Brunson, Ja Morant, Payton Pritchard.) For example, two different sources in the Athletic have separately described Ayo as:

Note: above emphasis was mine.

The Terance Mann comparison may bring up still-smarting wounds from the Jazz’s unfortunate series against the Clippers, but perhaps in a more positive light. However, Hollinger’s statements are also very valid. So what are his strengths and weaknesses, and his fit with the Jazz?

Stats

Per game: 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks, 48.8% FG, 39.0% 3PT, 78.3% FT

Advanced: 56.6% True Shooting, 9.5 BPM (6.4 offensive, 3.1 defensive), 0.207 win shares per 40

Physical: 21 years old (turns 22 next June), 6’5” with a 6’10” wingspan and 8’6” standing reach, 194 pounds

Strengths

Ayo’s strengths lie in his offensive game, excellent shooting, and plus rebounding and defending for his position, very similar to previous draft profilee Quentin Grimes, who is approximately the same age. However, he straight up was better in college - going back as far as possible in Sport Reference’s search database, only four players have averaged 20-plus points, 6-plus rebounds and 5-plus assists per game in a single season - Ayo, Penny Hardaway, Evan Turner, and Morehead State all-time leading scorer Ricky Minard (2004 48th pick).

In particular, where Ayo differs from Grimes is his creation abilities (5.3 assists per game) and ability to finish inside the arc (51.1% from two, 77.7% at the rim in his sophomore season [couldn’t find complete junior season numbers]), particularly with pull-up jumpers and crafty moves at the rim, relying much less heavily on his three point shooting. Ayo was particularly effective at attacking in transition, averaging 1.26 points per transition possession [84th percentile] and ranked among the national leaders in transition points per game, per Synergy Sports.

Dosunmu seems to also do an excellent job defending, being projected to be able to defend most 1s through 3s in the NBA man-to-man and off-ball. His defensive ability is particularly notable in transition, with a few chase-down blocks and steals in his highlight reel. These sort of hustle plays are things you can’t quite teach, and Ayo by all means has been an excellent interview and leader, which you would expect to translate over to the NBA as well.

Weaknesses

Dosunmu is not seen as a plus leaper or athlete, and his NBA-average 33.5 inch max vertical reflects this. Though he did “catch some bodies” in college like aforementioned comparable player Terence Mann, Mann had a 38.5 inch max vertical with a shorter wingspan (6’8”). Ayo isn’t particularly strong or explosive, relying more on finesse and craftiness to score inside.

Also notable is Dosunmu’s shooting trend - even though he did shoot 39% his last year, his three-point percentage dropped from 35.2% his freshman year to 29.6% his sophomore year. And each year, he attempted fewer threes - 4.4 to 3.4 to 2.9 per game, and only 36.2% overall on catch-and-shoot opportunities. While part of this is certainly due to Illinois recruiting better three point shooters to the team and Ayo’s dominance at the rim, this trend is generally not a positive one by NBA standards. His form isn’t particularly fluid or consistent, which is something that will definitely need to standardize in order to consistently make an impact.

Dosunmu also has a bit of a loose handle - he did average 5.3 assists per game but turned it over 3.3 times a game in his last year, which was actually his best AST:TOV ratio over his three years at Illinois. I would honestly argue that the vision is there, as he’s able to make a lot of high quality reads and passes, even though he struggled at times reading help defenses. The question is if he can continue to make the right decisions and not try to force passes out of the pick-and-roll (or other sets) that aren’t there.

Jazz Fit

I see Ayo as a currently better, lower-upside version of Quentin Grimes. His defense and rebounding would again be a welcome addition to a backcourt that occasionally struggled with both, and Ayo’s turnover/handling problems would be minimized by taking a secondary ball-handling position in the Jazz offense, while his abilities decision making in the pick-and-roll should translate over well. Ayo is definitely one of the top prospects that is likely able to contribute immediately, but his limited athleticism and the (related) fact that he will likely need to shift over to shooting or combo guard in the NBA limits his upside.

Pretty much all of the Bob Cousy Award winners have had multi-year careers in the NBA, so the question is whether or not the Jazz look to bring a player with a solid floor or a high ceiling (that may fit their immediate needs better at the 3/4/small ball 5) at the 30th pick, that certainly is a big question. If we look at the Spurs’ draft selections despite picking near the end of the 1st round for nearly two decades, they’ve almost always gone for the solid player who they believe they can develop - Keldon Johnson, Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Kyle Anderson, Corey Joseph, George Hill, Tiago Splitter, Ian Mahinmmi, Beno Udrih, Tony Parker - there’s very few misses that I omitted in there. While a few blossomed after leaving San Antonio, I believe Dosunmu could develop in the vein of White or Murray. Of the prospects most likely to actually be available and worth taking, Ayo would be a pretty good fit for the Jazz at #30.