Coby White has turned his game around as of late, which suggests the Chicago Bulls could use him for what they hope will be an extended playoff run.
However, White’s contractual status does add an element of uncertainty to his continued Bulls career, especially after the conclusion of this season.
Major Decision Ahead
White is in the third year of his rookie contract, thus making him eligible for a contract extension after this season. Given his age, three-point shooting prowess and 6-foot-5 frame, odds are decent teams will have interest in acquiring the high-volume scorer for a long-term role.
The Bulls will surely be one of those teams, but can they justify paying between $12-18 million per year for a sixth man scorer, knowing they have to max out Zach LaVine this summer on a long-term deal of its own?
While the contract of Nikola Vucevic expires the same year as any White extension would kick in (2023), the Bulls are likely to either retain Vucevic or acquire another center with a hefty price tag, likely propelling them into luxury tax territory.
With the assumption that the Bulls hang onto White for this season, it’s not inconceivable that the best course of action for them is to flip the 21-year-old in the summer to a team licking their chops at the chance of adding a potential 20-point scorer to the mix.
Whatever the return might be, remember that teams are less inclined to pay any type of premium on a player with just a year remaining on his deal.
Maybe the Bulls decide Ayo Dosunmu is ready to take over White’s minutes, making a modest White return more manageable. Or, alternatively, the Bulls take a similar approach to how they dealt with the Lauri Markkanen situation, by allowing White to hit restricted free agency in 2023, only to move him in a larger sign-and-trade, which likely would field a bigger return.
In theory, the Bulls could also hand him an extension before the start of the 2022-2023 season and trade him after July 1 the following year, as White would have cleared Poison Pill status, which is a salary cap implementation created for discouraging trades of extended players, whose new contracts have yet to kick in.
That way, the Bulls entirely avoid restricted free agency, taking control of the situation themselves.
Finally, extending White also safeguards for the risk of losing Dosunmu who’s only under contract for this and next season.
The good news for the Bulls here is that they have options.
Development Ties Into Value
White has improved of late, displaying a larger and better defensive sense than ever before, while also sporting an improved court vision. He’s never been more efficient shooting the ball, hitting over 46% of his shots, including almost 39% from long range.
Should those improvements settle in as new stable features to his game, White’s value will of course increase significantly, further making an extension bid wise, as White could outperform the value of his extension, making him an extremely attractive solution to external teams, who’d pay through the roof to trade for him.
With Lonzo Ball and LaVine already in place, any chance of a starting spot for White seems unrealistic, even if he should improve, so if teams come calling while dangling the carrot of a starting spot, expect White’s Bulls career to have an expiration date.
For Chicago, it’s all about finding the best way to move forward. The Bulls are tied with the Bucks for best odds of winning the Central Division, per FanDuel Sportsbook, so their focus can’t be tied up in their bench, given that they might have created themselves a window to be competitive.