On Devon Dotson's Bulls debut

Dotson got his first NBA minutes in the Bulls' blowout loss. Here's what I saw.

It was somewhat of a surprise when Devon Dotson went undrafted given that he was the best player on a very good Kansas Jayhawks team last season. Bulls general manager Arturas Karnisovas was therefore lauded by draft pundits when he quickly scooped Dotson up.

Dotson was apparently a priority for Karnisovas.

It’s hard to get too excited about a rookie when 60 other guys get picked in front of him, and I wasn’t expecting too much out of him despite the love that he got from Draft Twitter. I was, however, pleasantly surprised when I watched his first 10 minutes in mop-up duty of a 126-96 blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on New Year’s Day.

Obviously, you can’t take too much from Dotson doing well against the Bucks’ third-string unit in a game that was never even close. Nevertheless, I liked what I saw. I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Offense

Dotson was known as a scorer at Kansas, but it was his facilitating that impressed me. He reads the floor well. He was great at understanding where help was coming from and who would be open as a result.

Dotson is already one of the better passers on the team, maybe the second-best behind Tomas Satoranksy. He might actually play too now that the Bulls are missing backups Satoransky and Ryan Arcidiacono due to COVID protocols.

The big knock on Dotson coming out of Kansas was that he’s not a shooter. He hit only 31 percent of his 3’s on a little more than four attempts per game in his sophomore year before entering the draft.

Dotson didn’t attempt a 3 in his short Bulls stint, but he had a few openings that he didn’t capitalize on. The Bulls have implemented a ton of staggered screens in their offense this year, and Dotson passed up some opportunities for open pull-up 3’s off those actions that you would normally see other guards take. If Dotson ever does get rotational minutes, teams are going to learn quickly that you can sag off him and go under screens.

Where Dotson makes up for this lack of shooting is in his speed. He was one of the fastest guys in the draft. He was very good at creating separation against Bucks guard Bryn Forbes and I liked his first step.

I think Dotson could eventually become a solid playmaker because he can generate advantages and ping the ball to the open man when he draws two defenders. That’s basically the most important skill for point guards these days, and I liked the initial signs that I saw from him.

Dotson was also a pretty good finisher at Kansas, and he did have a great finish right through 6-foot-5 guard Sam Merrill. But he also got completely obliterated on a fast break layup by Bobby Portis, who is a below-average rim defender. He’s going to have to be able to finish over NBA-caliber athletes if he is to succeed with below-average 3-point shooting.

Defense

Dotson’s height is going to be a huge impediment to his defensive ability. His combine measurements were a height of 6-foot-2 with shoes, a 6-foot-3 wingspan, and 185 pounds. Dotson and I could share the same closet, although he’s got 10 pounds on me and probably less affinity for plaid.

Despite being shaped similarly to a 36 year old Korean, Dotson does compete pretty hard on defense. He also played mistake-free in the 10 minutes that I saw him and seemed to understand help principles very well.

The one area that I did not like at all was Dotson’s screen navigation. He gets bulldozed trying to get around bigger guys, and he’s going to have to be better about picking routes to get through multiple screens.

Even with his reasonably good intelligence and effort, it’s virtually impossible to envision Dotson being anything better than average defensively. Guys were finishing right over him. He’s going to have to be really smart about getting into early position to prevent shots from occurring, because he’s not altering anything if he has to contest.

Overall, I was definitely surprised at how much I liked Dotson. He’s a smart try-hard guy with some scoring ability and an unselfish attitude. I expected him to be just a guy out there, but he showed that he could impact the game. Whether that holds up against better competition is hard to say. I’d like to see more of him to find out.

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