Former Lottery Pick’s Career Could be at Stake: ‘Playing for More than Minutes’

Chicago Bulls

Getty Coby White #0 of the Chicago Bulls moves against the defense.

In the NBA, a player’s third year is when most expect to have a good grasp on what they will ultimately become. It’s a refrain we’ve heard with regard to Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams who seemingly has the weight of the season on his shoulders.

Some, like LeBron James and Luka Doncic, are phenoms right out of the games.

Others such as former Bulls franchise cornerstone Jimmy Butler or DeMar DeRozan’s former teammate with the Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry might be considered late-bloomers.

Current Bulls guard Coby White is heading into Year 4 and there is just as much uncertainty surrounding him as ever. What is his ideal role? Can he be at least a functional backup point guard? Will he ever be consistent? As it turns out, there is an incentive for the Bulls and White to figure out the answer to those questions and others this coming season.

Coby White at Career Crossroads

White averaged 12.7 points for the Bulls last season across 61 appearances. Both were career-lows as were his rebounding and steal numbers. But it was far from all bad for the 22-year-old last season.

He also shot career-bests from the floor (48.3%) and beyond the arc (38.5%) with the latter mark standing out on a team with limited shooting.

But The Athletic’s Darnell Maberry says despite that, White is stuck in limbo.

“When the salary cap is factored in, Chicago almost certainly can’t afford to commit precious resources to retain White beyond this season. He’s become more of a luxury than a necessity…White must prove he still warrants his share.”

White spoke of the benefits of finally having a healthy offseason in his exit interview. From the look of it, he seems to have put on some muscle – a goal he mentioned during that interview.

But, despite the uncertainty surrounding Lonzo Ball’s health, White might be the odd man out.

Are the Bulls Giving White a Fair Shot?

Ball is expected to miss the opening portion of the regular season. There has been plenty of discussion and speculation over whom the Bulls will start through his absence. Most often, the only names that come up are Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu.

Interestingly, White ran point guard in two of the three Bulls’ lineups with over 100 minutes to have a positive efficiency differential without Ball in the lineup, per Cleaning The Glass.

White and Zach LaVine are the only holdovers from the previous front office.

After two years of being pulled in multiple directions by two different regimes, White has seemingly been bypassed by two players brought in by Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas.

“The Bulls praised White for accepting numerous roles throughout a choppy 2021-22 season…It’s clear White has a role in the NBA as a rotational player. What’s less certain is who White will become. We know who he sees himself as and who he wants to be, a lead guard who orchestrates the offense. But it appears the Bulls no longer are giving him that chance.”

Mayberry goes on to say that, despite trying to fill multiple roles – including playing small forward – White is playing for more than just minutes this coming season.

He’s fighting for his NBA legacy.

What Is Coby White’s Ceiling?

If the Bulls knew the answer to this, we might have a clearer understanding of his future in Chicago and the league in general. On the high end, he’s a knockdown shooter that shot over 48% on triples in February.

But on the low side, he is an inconsistent, one-trick performer who regresses from that when his shot is not falling.

He shot just 32.1% from deep in March and just 27.6% in the postseason.

If the Bulls are truly planning on exploring his trade value again at the deadline, they would be wise to carve out some role for him during the season. To that point, K.C. Johnson reported during a recent episode of the “Bulls Talk Podcast” that the Bulls are not “down” on White. Perhaps they just have a better idea of what he can be with them.

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