When the Chicago Bulls began their 2021-22 campaign by winning six of their first seven games, it was clear that something was different about this iteration of the team. After years of futility, Zach LaVine and a new-look crew had the look of a force to be reckoned with.
The crazy thing about the hot start is that the team was still missing one of its key cogs. Coby White, the former No. 7 overall pick — who started 54 games at the point for Chicago last season — was still recovering from a June surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Once he was back on the hardwood, things could potentially get even better for the NBA‘s unlikeliest powerhouse. White could bolster a middling bench brigade or he could rejoin the starting five — bumping DeMar DeRozan over to the four spot — and the Bulls would be primed to set a new small-ball standard.
Well, White is back now and, while the Bulls are still balling out, neither of those scenarios has come to fruition. Moreover, the 21-year-old’s inconsistent play in the wake of his return has some questioning what his role will be going forward.
B/R: ‘Is Coby White Good?’
Over the weekend, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley penned a piece attempting to zero in on the most polarizing player on every team in the Association. And where the Bulls were concerned, it was White that earned the distinction.
Although there are differing viewpoints on White and what can reasonably be expected from him at the moment (as well as in the future), the opening line of Buckley’s write-up says it all about how things have changed for the 2020 All-Rookie Second Team pick.
“Is Coby White good?” the hoops scribe wondered.
Is this Bizarro World? Buckley continued:
Not even deserving of being the seventh overall pick in 2019 good, but just generally good? The fact that question remains a head-scratcher two-plus seasons and 140 games into his NBA career speaks to his polarity.
He can look the part, as a 6’5″ lead guard with an ignitable three-point stroke, blink-and-you’ll-miss-him burst and enough bounce to finish above the rim. If he’s going to be a scoring specialist, he needs to ratchet up the efficiency (career 40.4/35.2/84.3 slash). If he’s going to grow beyond that label, then his defense and distributing both require major work.
Things Have Been Wierd Since White Came Back
On November 26, White looked like his old self, scoring 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting (with two triples) and adding four boards, two assists and a steal in just 24 minutes against the Orlando Magic. However, that outburst has been the anomaly amid a slew of nothing-happening performances.
For the year, White’s scoring average is down almost 10 points to 5.9 per contest. Meanwhile, he’s shooting just 35.7% from the field and 22.2% from deep.
Curiously, though, he has been a positive impact player for the Bulls. In his 136 minutes of action, the Bulls are plus-7.1 points per 100 possessions. Stranger still, it has been the team’s defense that has soared when he has played. His D-rating of 97.5 is the best of the Bulls’ rotational players.
On the other hand, the Bulls are just 4-4 since White made his season debut.
In other words, let the great debate continue.