The disappointment of not hearing his name called during the 2020 NBA draft had just started to settle in for Devon Dotson when his agent received a call from the Chicago Bulls “about five seconds after the draft ended.”
The Bulls pursued Dotson quickly to sign him to a two-way contract, and soon he was FaceTiming with executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas and later talking to coach Billy Donovan on the phone. Dotson came away feeling the mutual excitement. Not only was he going to get an NBA opportunity so quickly, but Dotson, who was born in Chicago, got it with the team he grew up rooting for.
He’s happy with how the situation worked out, but being passed over in the draft after leaving Kansas has served as motivation.
“It’s an even bigger chip on my shoulder,” Dotson said at shootaround before Sunday’s game against the Mavericks. “That night was a tough night, just not being drafted and hearing your name called. You’ve got to keep moving, work past that.
“That’s motivation, that’s the way I look at it. That just adds to it. I had a lot before, but that adds a whole different element. Each and every day I’m trying to put the most work in as I can to develop my game.”
Dotson lived in Chicago until his family moved to Charlotte when he was in sixth grade. He was born after Michael Jordan played his last game here, but grew up a fan of the Derrick Rose-led Bulls teams. Dotson’s dad took him to Rose’s high school games at Simeon and he continued to follow Rose’s career closely.
And even when he moved to Charlotte — where he became the second-ranked player in North Carolina behind Coby White — he still felt a close connection to the city.
“When I got that (Bulls) jersey, just seeing my name on the back and I was just seeing the history behind this program,” Dotson said. “It’s a very historic program and culture. So getting that jersey for the first time, it kind of really hit me and set in. It was just a super cool feeling.”
Dotson made his NBA debut during garbage time in Friday night’s 126-96 blowout loss against the Bucks.
It was his first opportunity to play, a product of the Bulls being overmatched but also because four players were out under the NBA’s health and safety protocols for COVID-19. It has left the Bulls under-manned, especially at point guard with backups Tomas Satoransky and Ryan Arcidiacono both quarantining in Chicago. The Bulls do not have a timetable for their return, and there is a chance the team will have to embark on a four-game road trip against Western Conference opponents without them.
So Donovan will be searching for ways to fill minutes at backup point guard and he’s shown in the past he’s willing to give young players a chance. On opening night, with his team shorthanded and searching for somebody who could help the Bulls defensively, he put two-way guard Adam Mokoka into the game in the second quarter.
Recently, a NBA trend has developed with teams finding undrafted players to contribute — from the Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet to the Miami Heat’s Duncan Robinson to the Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso. During training camp, Donovan made, almost ad nauseam, references to Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort, who went from being undrafted in 2019 to becoming a starter and crucial to Oklahoma City’s playoff defense against James Harden.
“Dort was on a two-way contract; it was totally circumstantial,” Donovan said last month. “We had a bunch of injuries on the perimeter. He was given the opportunity and he never looked back.
“That’s the reliability piece I’m talking about. Lu Dort, I think in Game 6, 3-for-18, maybe, from the field. But totally reliable on defense every single possession. Unbelievably disciplined. He was that way during the whole series. As a coach, you build up a lot of trust in a player like that because you know what you’re getting.”
The Bulls’ G-League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls, have not been one of the teams reported to be bubbled for the developmental season, so it’s likely Dotson will stay as the Bulls try to navigate a season during COVID-19.
Dotson already has a good blueprint for his path to earning more playing time, which was laid out during a draft night conversation with Donovan.
“Just try to be the hardest worker,” Dotson said. “That’s not just the offensive end. I think I can make a big impact on the defensive end with my quickness and getting into guards, physicality. I’m a guy where you don’t have to coach effort. So that’s an area where I can focus on, the defensive end and really just lock in. And help the team out any way I can.”