Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu find growth in competition for Chicago Bulls starting point guard role

The starting point guard position has been the least certain spot on the Chicago Bulls roster for two seasons.

It’s a trend that coach Billy Donovan hopes to end this year as he seeks a long-term solution at point guard — a position battle honed in on new signing Jevon Carter and young talents Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu.

Both White and Dosunmu have already earned and then ceded the starting role before, stepping in as stopgap replacements during their respective rookie years.

Claiming the role this year won’t guarantee a permanent position — the Bulls still hope to see Lonzo Ball return to the starting lineup in 2024-25 — but it would represent a major step in either player’s career to move into the primary rotation.

Yet despite being in direct competition for one of the most coveted positions on any roster, both White and Dosunmu see each other as one of their greatest assets in improving as players.

“We’ve got the same mindset when it comes to competing,” White said. “We hold each other accountable a lot. We got that relationship that if we’re not playing well or we turn the ball too much or we’re not organized, we can get on each other and we can tell each other what it is and what it isn’t and it’s no hard feelings.”

The players are at different points in their development after last season, which saw White make the biggest leap of his career while Dosunmu suffered a sophomore slump.

White transformed himself from a shooter to a playmaker throughout the 2022-23 season and growing as a facilitator remained the focus of his offseason.

Valuing versatility and defense as the key components to staying on the court, Dosunmu has remained more determined to keep his playing style equally balanced between point and combination guard qualities.

“At this point, I really just want to be able to play out of close-outs,” Dosunmu said. “Bringing the ball up, that initiates the offense, but really the action starts when someone gets downhill and kicks out. The NBA is really becoming a positionless league so I really want to be proficient in any way — whether it’s bringing the ball up, ball screens, isolation, pick-and-roll — all of those things, I want to be able to excel.”

For White and Dosunmu, being in consideration for starting point guard is just as much a reflection of their growth as leaders on the Bulls roster as it is a sign of their improved playmaking. The team’s veteran leaders have made it clear what they expect from the position this season — the Bulls don’t just need a ballhandler, they need someone to be in command at the point.

Forward DeMar DeRozan addressed this need during media day, emphasizing that playing without a cohesive point guard led the Bulls to play a more sluggish style of basketball last season.

“We need somebody to control us in a sense, understand when to push the speed, get into the offense, be able to call and run plays on the fly,” DeRozan said. “Last year, we’d look toward and lead toward Billy (Donovan) a lot of times down the court. Sometimes we need that presence of understanding from the guard position what type of tempo we need to play, when to push the ball, when to run a play. Small things like that make us more decisive and quicker.”

DeRozan praised White for taking initiative throughout training camp, laying into teammates when he felt they weren’t meeting expectations for effort and attention to detail.

Those moments have begun to feel effortless to White, who is stepping into his own as a respected voice on the roster.

“A lot of stuff that I’m doing now, it’s starting to come naturally,” White said. “Honestly, I didn’t know that I always had it in me but now it’s starting to just flow out. Like, I can’t help it.”

When he began thinking about how to hone his own voice, White took inspiration from former teammate Garrett Temple.

Temple was a journeyman rotation player who spent one season with the Bulls in 2020-21, but his presence informed an ideal style of leadership for White: be the same version of yourself every day, never fall quiet in practice, always make time for a conversation with a teammate.

But White also credits Dosunmu — whose quiet conviction has been noted by teammates since his rookie season — for helping him solidify his own sureness as both a player and a leader.

“He has this ultra confidence in himself and in the way he looks at the game,” White said. “That has rubbed off on me a lot and that’s something I needed.”

Similarly, Dosunmu looked to White for guidance through the up-and-down progression of his first two years with the Bulls.

Going from an unassuming rookie deep in the rotation to a key starter and then back into the second unit was a challenge for Dosunmu, but watching White undertake the same journey helped him build a road map to finding success during inconsistent stretches of playing time.

Regardless of his role this season, Dosunmu feels he can find success through emulating White’s approach to adversity.

“Everything he’s been through — where he was drafted, being a starter for a season, coming off the bench — is pretty much what I’ve been through,” Dosunmu said. “He continued to learn, he adapted, he overcame the obstacles. That’s what I’m looking to do.”

Ultimately, White and Dosunmu hope to get on the court at the same time. They enjoy playing together, finding a rhythm last season when they came off the bench to frustrate opposing ballhandlers and fly coast-to-coast in transition.

Regardless of who starts on opening night in three weeks, White and Dosunmu have the same goals for their partnership this season — pushing each other, pushing the pace and pushing the Bulls into the playoffs.


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