Is the grass always greener in another NBA backcourt?
The Chicago Bulls’ Coby White has had his ups and downs to start the 2020-21 NBA season. He’s established new career highs in points, assists, and rebounds already during his sophomore campaign, but he has also struggled to properly run the offense the way a point guard should, and this had led to Zach LaVine taking on those responsibilities during crunch time.
Perhaps this issue is the reason Chicago Sun-Times beat writer Joe Cowley ushered White to the back seat in a comparison between him and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Collin Sexton.
Cowley was comparing the young cores of the Bulls and Cavs, and then determining which starting five he would take based on an amalgamation of the two rosters. He settled on Sexton, LaVine, the Cavs’ recently acquired Jarrett Allen, Patrick Williams, and Lauri Markkanen.
That’s not a bad starting five, and here’s how Cowley separated things by position.
Is he right?
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Sexton is Easily a Better Defender
Perhaps the weakest area of White’s game is his defense. While he gives a solid effort in on-ball situations, he is too often outmuscled by more physically built guards who gain an advantage based on White’s lack of core strength. White’s off-ball defense is often atrocious and it finds him indecisive in double-team situations, and less than attentive to shooters.
This rarely, if ever happens to Sexton. He is a stocky, muscularly built guard whose body type is similar to the New Orleans Pelicans’ Eric Bledsoe. Sexton is lightning quick and perhaps most of all, he embraces challenges on the defensive end. There is a little Patrick Beverley in his game from a mentality standpoint.
Sexton is Shorter, But Physically Stronger
As we mentioned, Sexton is the stronger of the two. However, White has four inches in height over him. I rarely if ever see this advantage come into play for White. This could be because he has a pretty small wingspan at 6’4″.
Sexton’s wingspan is 6’6.5″, which helps him be a more disruptive player on defense. Despite the height difference, you could make the argument Sexton plays bigger as a defender, but not as a rebounder.
Statistically, There isn’t Much of a Comparison
While White has proven to be a better rebounder (3.8 to 2.9) and a more prolific assist man (6.2 in 20-21 to 3.0 over Sexton’s career), the Cavs’ guard bests White in just about every other category. Sexton has turned into a phenomenal scorer and shooter.
He’s averaging 25.1 points per game this season while shooting an insane 53% from the field, and an even crazier 51% from three-point range. Sexton’s numbers have increased exponentially every year he’s been in the league. The same appears to be the case for White who is averaging 17.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game for the Bulls this season, but he isn’t dominating the way Sexton has at times for Cleveland.
Based on these factors, I’d have to agree with Cowley. While White is certainly a likable player, Sexton’s presence would likely change the Bulls’ identity for the better, and he would certainly improve one of their biggest weaknesses, and that’s defense.
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