On Tuesday night at the United Center, we got a glimpse of what could be the Chicago Bulls’ immediate future at point guard. Coby White made his first start as a professional and while there were some ups and downs, all things considered, you’d have to view the experience as a success–especially since the team is still playing without star shooting guard Zach LaVine. The Bulls won the game 108-103 and White was instrumental in the victory.
Let’s break down White’s performance.
Comfort Level Running the Offense
One of the most underrated aspects of point guard play in the NBA is comfortability running an offense. How well does a lead guard initiate the ball and player movement that leads to good scoring opportunities for himself and teammates–even if it isn’t him scoring or getting the assist? White looked comfortable and mostly decisive with his first pass and positioning, and he didn’t get too caught up in any one approach. Overall, there was a nice balance to his play on offense.
On the downside, there were a ton of turnovers. White had nine to be exact. For those who didn’t watch the game, and will only see the boxscore, it’s a little deceiving. Not all of the mishaps were on White. For example, in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, Lauri Markkanen (who has played horrendously this season) made a poor decision on a designed handoff to White, which allowed the pesky Matthew Dellavedova to get the steal. There were a few more miscommunications during the game that led to turnovers that were charged to White.
Still, he certainly made his own mistakes, which is to be expected in a rookie’s first start at the position. Picking his times to accelerate and slow the game down will be a part of his maturation at the point.
Creating for Himself
Despite Dellavedova and Collin Sexton’s solid defense the entire game, White continued to show the ability to create his own offense off the dribble. He didn’t have the outside stroke going as well as he has during several games on this recent run, but he did knock down two of seven three-point attempts while converting seven of 17 shots and finishing with a team-high 20 points. This was an excellent example of a strong offensive player remaining dangerous even without his outside shot working.
Creating for Teammates
Many have wondered if White would be adept at setting up his teammates because he has spent most of the season playing off the ball. He began to put those concerns to rest over the past four games as he took on a larger primary ballhandling role in the absence of LaVine. White dished out five assists on Tuesday, which also led the team. He could’ve had more if Markkanen and Tomas Satoransky were making open looks from beyond the arc, but the vision and willingness to distribute were apparent.
White usually gives strong effort on defense, however, he is slight in build and needs to get stronger so that he isn’t taken off the dribble so easily. Also, whenever he is caught in any sort of mismatch and there is a switch with a larger opponent, he is of no real resistance to a driving player. This was in effect on Tuesday as White showed the desire to make Sexton and Dellavedova work on the perimeter, but was far less help below the free-throw line. He did have five rebounds–all on the defensive end–which ended the Cavs’ possessions.
The Bottom Line
To quote former New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards, “you play to win the game,” and that’s what the Bulls did on Tuesday, and it’s something they have only done 22 times this year. With White playing a team-high 38 minutes and finishing +9 for the game, he was a clear asset at the point guard position. The turnovers and lack of strength on defense are his areas of opportunity, but if he can continue to gain experience and most importantly, mesh with LaVine when he returns, the Bulls may not need to target a point guard in the 2020 NBA Draft.