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2021 NBA Draft Profile: Is Ayo Dosunmu a viable option with the Nuggets 26th overall pick?

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Loyola-Chicago at Illinois Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ayo Dosunmu is a lengthy guard out of Illinois that, even at 21 years old, seems to have a lot more untapped potential than most older prospects. That doesn’t mean Ayo doesn’t have any NBA ready skills. The man was a walking bucket and one of the best rebounding guards in all of college hoops last season. Ayo started all 90 games he played in his time with the Fighting Illini and while he certainly did improve his craft, one of the biggest factors in why he might be a second round selection is how marginal these improvements were.

He’s a guard that’s better at scoring off the dribble, but is also not the best ball handler or passer. There’s an obvious conundrum here that could limit his potential to a sixth man role. It would take more than what he showed in college to feel confident with him playing lead guard in the Association. I see his most likely path to immediate success at the next level being as a spot-minute microwave scorer off the bench. If Ayo improves as a spot-up shooter, however, this would allow him to be effective for longer stretches and open the possibility of being an eventual starter at the next level.

Ayo Dosunmu, Combo Guard, Illinois

Vitals

Height: 6’5”

Wingspan: 6’10.25”

Weight: 194

Age: 21 (1/17/2000)


Career Per Game Statistics

Season School Conf. MP PTS FG% 3P% FT% AST TRB STL BLK TOV
Season School Conf. MP PTS FG% 3P% FT% AST TRB STL BLK TOV
2018-19 Illinois Big Ten 31.3 13.8 0.435 0.352 0.695 3.3 4 1.3 0.3 2.3
2019-20 Illinois Big Ten 33.5 16.6 0.484 0.296 0.755 3.3 4.3 0.8 0.2 2.7
2020-21 Illinois Big Ten 35.1 20.1 0.488 0.39 0.783 5.3 6.3 1.1 0.2 3.3
Career Illinois Big Ten 33.2 16.7 0.47 0.345 0.75 3.9 4.8 1.1 0.2 2.7

Strengths

Bucket Getter

I’m not sure what aspect of Dosunmu’s scoring ability is more impressive: that he created so many of the points himself or that he was able to do this while shooting over 48 percent from the field in each of his last two seasons. His teammates certainly helped him score in other ways than stat assists, specifically Kofi Cockburn, who was a brick wall of screen setter as Dosunmu’s primary pick and roll partner. Last season he averaged just over 20 points per game, but it’s his efficiency that stands out more to me.

His preferred areas to get shots off are the mid range and directly at the rim, but in his junior season Ayo also shot considerably better from three off the dribble (42.9%) than he did in catch and shoot situations (36.2%). Don’t mistake that 36% to mean Dosunmu can’t be valuable off ball too. Although he wasn’t asked to operate without the rock all that often, Ayo was effective as a cutter. Not only does he have a good feeling for timing his move, but he is also a solid finisher when he gets to the cup. Being an effective cutter is even more valuable when you have a savant like Jokic that will consistently reward his effort.

Size/Length

Dosunmu measured in at 6’5” with shoes with a 6’10.25” wingspan at the combine. He utilizes this reach to rebound at a very good rate for a guard, as well as challenge shooters with tough contests. Ayo is also a capable NBA level athlete, so his height advantage doesn’t come with much, if any, of a speed disadvantage. If he can get a little bit stronger, he has the length and height necessary to expand his defensive versatility and effectively switch onto most wings in the NBA.

Defensive Potential

In terms of team defense and general awareness, Ayo isn’t quite where you’d hope an older prospect would be. When tasked with staying in front of a ball handler in isolation he is actually very capable, where he runs into more issues are off-ball mental lapses and occasional poor technique. On the contrary, Ayo shines on defense when navigating through screeners. This helps him both on and off ball to stick with his assignment. Dosnmu is by no means a negative defender, but if he can lock-in and commit to defense, he has the natural talent and size to be an asset on that end of court.


Improvement Areas

Playmaking

Ayo Dosnmu has a lot of assists that are inches away from being turnovers. In the NBA, these margins will drop and unless he makes strides in his passing accumen, he won’t be quite as fortunate as he was in college. Despite this, Ayo is a willing passer and doesn’t over dribble very often. The majority of his turnovers came from not having the tightest handle or being unable to read the help defense. This likely means Dosunmu will be limited to a secondary playmaking role, but it’s too soon to rule out the possibility of him finding success as a lead guard.

Spot-up Shooting

It’s rare you’ll see a prospect that just finishing a season shooting almost 40% from three and also see “shooting” as an aspect they should work on. Each season at Illinois Ayo attempted slightly less three point shots per game. His catch and shoot from is stiff and the results can be all over the place. In other words, he didn’t have a lot of three point shots that were close, but rimmed out.

On the bright side, Dosunmu did increase his free throw percentage by almost 10% throughout his collegiate career. He ended up with a respectable 78.3% as a junior on the most attempts of any season. You also can’t ignore the improvement he made from three, going from a combined 33% in his first two seasons to 39% is nothing to scoff at. If he can raise his off-ball three point shooting percentage (36%) even slightly to around 40%, his odds of continuing to be an efficient overall scorer in the Association go up significantly.


Expected Outcome

Projected Draft Range: Late 1st round - Early 2nd round

Denver Stiffs Big Board: 23rd overall

NBA Comparison: Reggie Jackson/Will Barton


Verdict

Ayo Dosunmu has all the tools to have a long NBA career. Despite having threes of college hoops experience under his belt, I would would exercise caution on any expectations for him in his first few years in the league. If he does develop into a positive impact player on good team such as Denver, it may take awhile.

The majority of mock drafts have Ayo being selected shortly after the Nugget’s current pick of 26th overall. If these are to be trusted, Dosunmu is likely to be available when Denver is on the clock. At the very least he should be given thorough consideration, but I trust the Nugget’s scouting department’s judgement here.


Highlights

Poll

How would you feel if the Nuggets drafted Ayo Dosunmu?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Amazing - my top choice at 26th overall
    (20 votes)
  • 49%
    Good - solid end of the first round talent
    (57 votes)
  • 32%
    Meh - I prefer other prospects
    (37 votes)
  • 0%
    Bad - Dosunmu’s game will not translate to the NBA
    (1 vote)
115 votes total Vote Now