Ayo Dosunmu

Barnes, Cunningham, Mobley Head All-Rookie Team

Scottie Barnes, Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Franz Wagner and Jalen Green comprised this year’s All-Rookie First Team, the NBA announced in a press release.

Barnes, Cunningham and Mobley were all unanimous selections, receiving the maximum total of 200 points each. Wagner received 183 points, followed by Green with 158. Strangely, one media member left Wagner off their ballot completely, as he received 99 of 100 possible votes.

Raptors wing Barnes, who narrowly edged Cavaliers big man Mobley for the Rookie of the Year award, ranked third in points (15.3) and rebounds (7.5) among all rookies, and fifth in assists (3.5). Mobley was fifth in points (15.0) and led all first-year players in rebounds (8.3) and blocks (1.67) per game.

Pistons guard Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, was first among rookies in points (17.4), second in assists (5.6) and fifth in rebounds (5.5). Magic forward Wagner also had a great year, averaging 15.4 points (fourth among rookies), 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 79 games. Rockets guard Green finished the season strong, scoring 20+ points in 17 of his last 25 games on his way to averaging 17.3 points, second among first-year players.

Pelicans defensive ace Herbert Jones (123 votes) and Thunder floor general Josh Giddey (122 votes) headline the Second Team. Jones averaged 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals (first among rookies) and should at least receive votes for an All-Defensive nod, even if he doesn’t end up making one of the two teams.

In addition to averaging 12.5 points, Giddey was second among rookies in rebounds (7.8) and first in assists (6.4), but he only appeared in 54 of 82 games, having missed the final 23 contests with a hip injury, which is likely why he didn’t receive more First Team votes.

Here are both All-Rookie teams in full, with their voting point totals noted in parentheses. Players received two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote.

2021/22 All-Rookie First Team:

2021/22 All-Rookie Second Team:

Ten other rookies received votes — you can view the full voting results right here. Among the group that missed the cut, Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga (47) was just behind Duarte, with Kings guard Davion Mitchell (28) the only other player receiving a significant number of votes.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Dosunmu, Ball, Vucevic

Zach LaVine may have dealt with left knee issues during the season but that won’t affect his bargaining power in the offseason, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.  Multiple league executives believe it’s a foregone conclusion the Bulls swingman will sign a max contract as an unrestricted free agent this summer, Mayberry writes. LaVine could be the top available player on the market, depending on how things shake out with other potential free agents. He averaged 24.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 4.5 APG during the regular season.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • Rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu will be a key performer during the postseason with Lonzo Ball sidelined by a knee injury. He’s ready for the challenge, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I know I play hard. I have a lot of faith. I believe in my ability,” Dosunmu said. “I understand when (the intensity) rises, I’ll be able to rise also.”
  • The team will miss Ball in a number of ways during the playoffs, Johnson writes in a separate story. Johnson notes that, without Ball, the Bulls aren’t creating as many turnovers, their pace of play has slowed and their 3-point shooting has fallen off. The former No. 2 overall pick was ruled out for the playoffs last week after he suffered a setback during his rehab.
  • Nikola Vucevic dominated Brook Lopez two seasons ago in the playoffs, though the Bucks eliminated the Magic. The Bulls will need Vucevic to be stellar once again against his counterpart to have any chance of upsetting Milwaukee in the first round, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “He’s really important to our team and he’s been important all year long,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I think for him, even when you speak to him, I do feel like that with some of him being in rhythm offensively, I really like the shots he’s gotten.” Vucevic averaged 28 PPG, 11 RPG and 4 APG during that series with Orlando, which lasted five games.

Central Notes: Williams, Caruso, Pistons Offseason, Hayes

After being sidelined with a wrist injury since October, Bulls power forward Patrick Williams seems happy to be back on the floor for Chicago in any capacity. Though Williams was a starter in his five games pre-injury this season, head coach Billy Donovan has opted to play him off the bench during his first two games back this week. Williams does not mind the switch, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago.

“I’m fine with it, as long as I can contribute to the team,” Williams said ahead of his first game back with the Bulls, an eventual 113-99 win over the Raptors on Monday. “I plan on being in this league for a long time. Sitting out for five months, I may not be able to show everything. But just help the team win in any way (I can)… I think winning takes care of everything. If we win, everybody’s happy. No matter how many points you scored, no matter how many minutes you played, everybody’s happy. If you get a ring, everybody gets a ring.”

Williams proved a key contributor even in limited minutes during that victory against the Raptors, and reiterated his excitement about returning to the floor in his postgame comments, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“It was amazing,” Williams said. “Just having something taken from you for so long, something that you love and finally being able to get it back and enjoy the game, there’s really nothing like it.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Donovan has opted to make a change in his starting rotation with Bulls starting point guard Lonzo Ball still shelved and reserve guard Alex Caruso back healthy. Though a good defender, rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu has been demoted to the bench in favor of the more experienced Caruso, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I just felt like since Alex had his legs under him a little bit, starting off with that group defensively could give us a little bit better energy,” Donovan explained. “AC is extremely smart and brings so much with IQ and defense and spacing the floor and shot making,’’ All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine said regarding the change. “With him moving into the [starting] lineup and Ayo going back [a reserve role], I think it’s going to be a switch up.”
  • The Pistons, the No. 15 seed in the East, have plenty of intriguing decisions facing them in the 2022 offseason. In a new mailbag, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic examines several key summer storylines. Edwards anticipates team president Troy Weaver possibly targeting a player with a handle in the draft or free agency to pair with rookie guard Cade Cunningham. Edwards also discusses his expectations for the future of forward Jerami Grant, as well as that of power forward Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft and a restricted free agent this summer.
  • Second-year Pistons guard Killian Hayes has struggled to develop this season amid injuries, per Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Since being shifted to a bench role, Hayes has at least been able to expect a certain amount of guaranteed run when he is available. “I’ve gotten used to coming off the bench at the five- or six-minute mark but starting and just getting back to that rhythm, it’s right into the game,” Hayes said. “You don’t have time to go back to the locker room and see how the game goes, so just be ready. I think I’m ready for both (starting and reserve roles).”

Bulls Notes: Williams, Ball, Dosunmu, LaVine, Brown

Coach Billy Donovan remains confident that Patrick Williams will return sometime this month and he plans to slowly work the second-year forward back into the Bulls‘ rotation, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Williams, who was cleared for “minimal” contact last week, is nearing the five-month anniversary of his wrist surgery, which is approximately when the medical staff projected his return.

“He can play an important role for our team,” Donovan said. “If we were whole (when Williams returns), I think the best thing to do with him would be to ease him in and bring him off the bench. That’s just my opinion right now. I don’t think it would be fair to him, just to throw him — with the number of games he’s missed and the amount of months he’s missed — to say, his first game back: ‘Hey, he’s starting.’”

Williams was an immediate starter as a rookie and was being counted on to provide a strong defensive presence in the front court this season. However, Javonte Green and Derrick Jones Jr. have been effective substitutes at power forward since Williams was injured, and he will likely only play in a handful of games before the regular season ends.

“I think adding Patrick helps our team. But for a guy that’s missed five months, and the first day he comes back, just to unload him into the starting lineup, I don’t know if that would be the best thing for our team and I don’t know if that would necessarily be fair to Patrick,” Donovan said. “I think he is gonna need some time to get his legs under him, to get his rhythm back, to find some kind of routine. And I think as a starter, coming back, to put him in that position, I think would be a big ask for him.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Lonzo Ball is making progress after a surgical procedure in late January for a small meniscus tear in his left knee, but an MRI showed a bone bruise in the area that’s causing him pain, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Donovan said Ball is doing some “lateral work,” but isn’t running yet at full speed.
  • With Ball and Alex Caruso injured for much of the season, rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu has seized the opportunity to show he’s ready to contribute right away, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN. The Bulls didn’t expect Dosunmu to play a major role this season, but he’s been productive since moving into the starting lineup on January 15. “It’s been huge,” Caruso said. “You lose ‘Zo, you lose me, two guys that you think are going to be the main point guards, ball handlers on the team. And you throw him in, playing that position is probably the hardest position in the league to play. It’s just really impressive.”
  • Dealing with some knee pain and returning from a one-game absence, Zach LaVine wasn’t pleased with how tentatively he played at the start of Monday’s game against Sacramento, as Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic details. “I’ve got to do a better job with just my mentality,” LaVine said. “I’m going out there and I’m playing through some pain in my knee injury, but I’ve got to have the right mindset. I can’t tiptoe into the game. It’s my first game back. I could put excuses out there, but I put that on myself. I made a mental decision in the second half to go out there and play like me. I’ve got to start off that way.”
  • With Caruso back and LaVine playing on Monday night, Troy Brown was pulled from Donovan’s nine-man rotation, Schafer notes in an NBC Sports Chicago story.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Caruso, DeRozan, Dosunmu

Zach LaVine was encouraged by his visit to a knee specialist, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Bulls coach Billy Donovan told reporters that LaVine’s appointment went “very well” and some “swelling was taken out of his knee.”  The doctor gave him a lubricant to put on his sore left knee and cleared him for activity within 48 hours.

LaVine will be able to attend All-Star Weekend, Johnson adds, although no determination has been made on whether he will play in the game or participate in the three-point contest. The team’s medical staff will meet with LaVine to determine whether he will be on a minutes limit when he returns after the break.

“The doctors feel totally fine about him resuming playing,” Donovan said (Twitter link).

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Donovan also offered an update on injured guard Alex Caruso, who is expected to begin dribbling and shooting in seven to 10 days, Johnson adds (via Twitter). Caruso had wrist surgery on January 24 and was projected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks.
  • In an interview with Tyler R. Tines of GQ Magazine, DeMar DeRozan talks about being overwhelmed with sadness when he was traded in 2018 after nine years in Toronto. The deal was ultimately beneficial for DeRozan, who learned to refine his game during three years with Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. Former USC teammate Nikola Vucevic approached him during a game last season and urged him to come to the Bulls in free agency, and DeRozan said it was an easy decision after his summer meeting with general manager Marc Eversley“He knew everything about me basketball-wise,” DeRozan said. “He understood how I could fit in and they wanted to allow me to be myself.” 
  • Ayo Dosunmu‘s college coach isn’t surprised to see him make an impact in the NBA so quickly, per Steve Greenberg of The Chicago Sun-Times. Dosunmu wasn’t selected until the 38th pick in last year’s draft, but he has become part of the Bulls’ rotation and earned a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge. “It’s hard to describe Ayo,” said Illinois coach Brad Underwood, “because I just say ‘winner’ and there’s nothing that gets in the way of that. But I also felt like he would be better suited to the NBA game because the paint opens up, his speed becomes more of a factor, his passing in space becomes easier. And I think he’s really, really effective because he’s got two, maybe three superstar-type guys around him, and that elevates his game. And he guards. And he’s tougher than hell.”

Central Notes: Hield, Dosunmu, Bulls, Lopez, LeVert

A report on Wednesday morning indicated that the Pacers could flip veteran wing Buddy Hield to a new team today or tomorrow after acquiring him from Sacramento on Tuesday. However, Zach Lowe of ESPN (Twitter link) isn’t expecting that to happen, reporting that Indiana doesn’t plan to move Hield before Thursday’s deadline, despite some interest from other teams.

Lowe cautions that things could change in the next 24+ hours, but as I noted when we relayed the initial Hield rumor, his $23MM cap hit and the $40MM he’s owed for the two seasons after this one will probably make it tricky for the club to get anything of real value for him, especially since he’s in the midst of a down year — his .368 3PT% is the worst mark of his career.

Here are a few more items from around the Central:

  • The Bulls‘ injury woes continued on Tuesday, as rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu entered the NBA’s concussion protocol, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Dosunmu has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game in Charlotte, but it’s unclear how much more time he might miss beyond that.
  • Star forward DeMar DeRozan doesn’t believe the Bulls needs to make any trades at the deadline, suggesting that getting healthy is the top priority for the club. “We’re missing Lonzo Ball, one of the top point guards in this league,” DeRozan said, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Alex Caruso, one of the best defenders in this league. Patrick Williams, one of the young stars in this league. We haven’t had those guys. And we have them; they’ll be back. We don’t need to worry or stress about having nobody else.
  • Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said on Tuesday that the team continues to get positive news about Brook Lopez‘s recovery from back surgery and remains hopeful that the veteran center will be back before the end of the regular season, says Jamal Collier of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • New Cavaliers guard Caris LeVert is excited to be back in the thick of a playoff race after spending the first half of the season with a lottery-bound Indiana squad, writes Tom Withers of The Associated Press. “Here, we’re playing for a championship,” LeVert said.

2021/22 Rising Stars Team Rosters

As we previously relayed, the NBA announced a new format for its Rising Stars event at All-Star weekend, which will take place on Friday, February 18. The event will feature four seven-player teams competing in a three-game tournament (two semifinals and a final).

The player pool is comprised of 12 NBA rookies, 12 sophomores, and four players from the G League Ignite, while the games will be played to a target score: 50 points in the semifinals and 25 points in the final, in honor of the league’s 75th anniversary season.

The rosters were announced on February 1, but now the four honorary coaches (75th anniversary team members Rick Barry, Isiah Thomas, Gary Payton and James Worthy) have selected their seven-man teams, per our JD Shaw (Twitter link). Here are the rosters:

Team Barry:

Team Isiah:

Team Payton:

Team Worthy:

James Ham of ESPN 1320 and The Kings Beat provides (via Twitter) the full draft results.

The top 10, in order, were: Edwards, Mobley, Ball, Anthony, Giddey, Barnes, Cunningham, Bey, Bane, and Wagner. It’s worth noting that Worthy and Anthony both went to the University of North Carolina, so Anthony’s selection at No. 4 is less surprising given that context.

What do you think of the teams? Who do you think will come out on top? Head to the comments section and let us know your thoughts!

NBA Announces 2021/22 Rising Stars Rosters

The NBA has revealed the 28 players (12 rookies, 12 sophomores, and four G League Ignite players) who will suit up for the 2022 Clorox Rising Stars Game in Cleveland this year, per its official PR account (Twitter links). There are a few intriguing surprises among the first-year NBA players.

Here are the players who made the cut:

Rookies:

Sophomores:

Additionally, four players from the G League Ignite will participate in the Rising Stars Game based on voting from NBA G League head coaches. The NBAGL has announced (Twitter link) that MarJon Beauchamp, Dyson Daniels, Jaden Hardy and Scoot Henderson will partake in the action. Players will be separated into four teams, and each G League player will be drafted to join one of the teams later this week.

Among the rookie NBA players, the additions who would be most surprising ahead of the 2021/22 season would be Dosunmu and Jones, both of whom were second-round draft selections. 2021 lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga, Ziaire Williams, James Bouknight, Joshua Primo and Moses Moody were all omitted from inclusion this year.

Among the second-year players, Ball could be appearing on multiple nights during All-Star Weekend this season, as he appears to be a very possible first-time All-Star this year thanks to his outstanding work with the upstart Hornets.

The lottery-bound Magic, Pistons, and Rockets can boast having the most inclusions here, with three players apiece.

As we detailed last week, this year’s Rising Stars event will look a little different, with the four teams taking part in a mini-tournament and playing to a target score in each game: 50 points in the semifinals and 25 points in the final, in honor of the league’s 75th anniversary season.

Central Notes: Dosunmu, White, Kalamian, Holiday, Sexton

Rookie Ayo Dosunmu and third-year guard Coby White have expanded roles in the absence of Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine and they’ve performed well, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes. Ball is out six-to-eight weeks after undergoing knee surgery and LaVine didn’t join on the Bulls on their three-game road trip due to a less serious knee injury.

Dosunmu and White have started the last three games, with Dosunmu averaging 18.0 PPG, 8.0 APG and 5.7 RPG and White posting 17.0 PPG, 4.3 APG and 4.3 RPG.

DeMar DeRozan has been impressed with Dosunmu’s maturity. “He accepts his mistakes,” DeRozan said. “He holds himself accountable. And that’s big for a young guy to be able to do that.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons assistant coach Rex Kalamian has agreed to become the head coach of the Armenian national team, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnaworski tweets. Both of Kalamian’s parents are Armenian-Americans. Kalamian, who recently served as acting coach when Dwane Casey missed some games for personal reasons, will continue in his duties in Detroit.
  • Jrue Holiday returned to action on Wednesday after missing six games due to left ankle soreness. Though he only scored nine points in 22 minutes, he gave the Bucks a boost in numerous areas, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. “Wish I had a little more (time on the floor), but I think just trying to get my timing back, get my legs back, get my feel for the game back,” Holiday said. “I feel like I haven’t played in a long time, so just trying to get back right.”
  • Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton, who underwent season-ending knee surgery two months ago, will be a restricted free agent after the season. Bryan Fonseca of Basketball News explores the pros and cons of Cleveland trading Sexton before next month’s deadline. Fonseca ultimately concludes the Cavs should retain Sexton, providing another shot-creator and catch-and-shoot option on a team with playoff aspirations beyond this season.

Bulls Notes: Dosunmu, Hill, Trade Targets, Caruso

The shorthanded Bulls have a three-game losing streak for the first time this season, but rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu has emerged as a bright spot, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Making his third start, Dosunmu posted his first career double-double Saturday night with 21 points and 10 assists in a narrow loss to the Celtics.

Dosunmu made nine of 10 shots from the field, committed just one turnover and harassed Jayson Tatum into a poor shooting game. His outstanding performance came one night after going scoreless in 32 minutes against the Warriors.

“Coming from college to the NBA, there’s a lot of adjustments that I knew I had to make,” Dosunmu said. “And I knew that one of the adjustments was going from night to night and understanding that it’s a ‘what have you done for me lately’ league. And it’s so many games that you can’t get too high and never get too low. That was my challenge. (Friday), I had a tough night. I didn’t play to my standards. But I knew we had another chance today to get better. So I just wanted to come out there and try to establish that mentality.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Saturday’s game also featured a surprising contribution from hardship addition Malcolm Hill, notes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Hill, who signed with the team on Friday, played 18 minutes and was on the court as the game was being decided in the closing minutes. He shot just 1-of-5 from the field, but made enough plays to impress coach Billy Donovan“He’s been here for a day-and-a-half,” Donovan said, “and he did a good job defensively.”
  • In a separate story, Schaefer identifies three potential trades to fix the hole at power forward created by the loss of Patrick Williams, Javonte Green and Derrick Jones. Jerami Grant of the Pistons might be an option, Schaefer states, but only if Chicago is willing to part with Williams. Schaefer sees Grant as an ideal fit with the starting lineup and points out that he has prior experience with Donovan in Oklahoma City and executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas in Denver. The KingsHarrison Barnes and the ClippersNicolas Batum may also be options, according to Schaefer.
  • Chicago guard Alex Caruso, who is the only Bulls player currently in health and safety protocols, isn’t expected to return until Wednesday, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.