Over the next month, GBB will be profiling various players the Memphis Grizzlies may target in the 2021 NBA Draft. This year we will be breaking it up in to three sections - five to likely trade up for, five potentially available right around pick #17 where Memphis is slotted to pick, and five that surely will be there or perhaps the Grizzlies could even trade back and still select.
AYO DOSUNMU, GUARD-WING, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
- 6’5” (6’10.25” Wingspan), 194 pounds, 21 years old from Chicago, IL
- Three seasons at the University of Illinois: 33.2 minutes per game, 16.7 points per game, 47% field goal percentage (34.5% from three, 75% from the free throw line) 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 2.7 turnovers
- ADVANCED STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon)-Rebounding, field goal percentage, wingspan and defensive rating (96.8)
- ADVANCED STATS TO IMPROVE: Turnovers, Projected NBA three point percentage (35.1%) free throw attempt rate (33.3%)
- AWARDS AND ACCOLADES: Consensus first team All-American, Bob Cousey Award, Two-time first team All-Big Ten, USA Today National Player of the Year
- CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENTS: (39th Tankathon) (34th ESPN) (20th CBS Sports) (35th SI)
When Ayo Dosunmu announced he was returning to the University of Illinois for his junior year, he brought with him expectations of delivering an NCAA title to Champaign. The Fighting Illini fell short of their goal, running up against a feisty Loyola Chicago squad in the NCAA tournament, but Ayo had a fantastic season, improving in nearly every statistical category from his sophomore campaign and establishing himself as a leader and a player any NBA team should want on their roster. He is not an ideal fit on the current Grizzlies roster, but he projects as a high-character prospect with a low ceiling but very few flaws in his overall game. In other words, a prospect the current front office has fallen in love with.
What He Does Well
Ayo is an incredibly well-rounded combo guard and can do a little bit of everything. He is a creative finisher with a variety of tools to get in the lane. He has ideal size for a guard and is comfortable running the offense or in off ball situations but more comfortable when the ball is in his hands. There are questions about how effective he will be as a three-point shooter in the NBA but the increase in his percentage from beyond the arc from 29.6% his sophomore season to 39% as a junior suggests there is room from growth. He has a reputation as a relentless worker, so I’m a believer he will be a decent shooter at the next level.
Ayo is deadly in transition. He doesn’t have elite top speed, but he can stop on a dime and is always keeping defenders guessing. As a ball-handler, Ayo looks to dictate pace and create opportunities for his teammates. He is an unselfish player but also knows when to attack. He is also an excellent rebounder, able to use his strength and size to grab boards many guards can’t.
Defensively, Ayo has significant potential. As previously mentioned, he has great size and is quick enough to stay in front of his man. He also stays engaged and does an excellent job communicating with his teammates on that end of the floor. He may not ever make an All-Defensive team, but I trust he won’t be a liability defensively.
Where He Can Improve
Ayo can be careless with the basketball which at times created too many transition opportunities for opponents. He will need to be more diligent about taking care of the basketball to be successful at the next level. He is also very right hand dominant and as a result, a solid defensive scheme can shut him down by forcing him to go left.
I have faith that Ayo will be decent shooter, but there’s understandable cause for concern. Ayo was a good shooter off the dribble but struggled in catch and shoot situations, and he will need to dramatically improve that as the ball won’t be in his hands nearly as much at the next level. In addition to being a streaky shooter, Ayo’s shot selection can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. These are correctible traits but with shooting at a premium in the NBA, it is understandable why he is not a projected lottery pick.
At first glance, Ayo isn’t a perfect fit for the Grizzlies who have a glut of guard options. However, he is a natural leader, and if given the opportunity to run the Grizzlies second unit, he could thrive. He is more turnover prone than Tyus Jones but has far greater upside on offense and defense. I highly doubt the Grizzlies will seriously consider Ayo at 17, but he does check a lot of boxes as the type of player Zach Kleiman and company tend to favor. He is a natural leader and a hard worker, and the list of NBA prospects with those traits who fail is small.
Ayo Dosunmu is projected to be selected in the late 20s or the early second round of Thursday’s draft. He is a shrewd player with no shortage of ways to score the ball and is a fierce competitor. He will likely never make an Allstar team but the team that calls his name on draft night will not regret the section.