“Not that much has changed,” a rival general manager tells Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney. “He wants it to change. He wants to be an NBA starter and there are not many teams that will see him as that—he is not the passer or playmaker he needs to be for a starter. He is a scorer, a scoring guard. Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams, that type.“
The good news is that Crawford and Williams each won Sixth Man of the Year three times in their career. Perhaps the biggest issue for White is that his notable progress showed up on tape more than it did in the stat sheet.
He posted career lows in points and rebounds narrowly avoiding the same in assists as his role was solidly off the bench.
His calling-card three-point efficiency also fell, though he still shot better than 37% from deep.
But White’s improved ball handling and decision-making on the floor — and even his defense — were noticeably improved at a crucial juncture in his career and for the Bulls. White has made it clear that he still has a desire to be a starting point guard and that that would play a role in his decision-making in restricted free agency.
“The problem for him is that type is not really a type that is being smiled on these days,” the exec told Deveney before summing up the 23-year-old former top-10 pick as a “high volume, low-efficiency scorer off the bench.”
White’s 44.3% shooting from the floor this past season was a career-best mark
He also averaged 13.6 points, 4.9 assists, and 3.9 rebounds on .523/.442/1.000 shooting splits over the last 15 games of the regular season with one start.
It would not be too surprising if the perception of White around the league has not changed. His improvements came on a team that took a step back overall as his role was reduced for much of the campaign. A longer track record and a more certain outlook could go a long way to making him more appealing to other teams on the open market.
He could still get that with the Bulls.
Bulls Could Pay Now, Trade Coby White Later
“When you consider their options at point guard, they don’t want to lose him until they know what is happening with Lonzo [Ball],” said the GM. “They can sign Coby, and once they get clarity on Lonzo, they can keep or trade Coby and get some value on him. They could have traded him if that was the plan. They did not, though, so look for them to re-sign him, then move him later on.”
Ball is expected to miss most if not all of next season after undergoing three knee surgeries in a 14-month span to address a torn meniscus and, later, soreness from nerve damage.
Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas was non-committal in any direction regarding Ball during his end-of-season press conference. But head coach Billy Donovan voiced his confidence in White’s ability compared to past years.
That said, this is not the first time the possibility of a pay-now, trade-later scenario has been brought up for White. The Bulls were urged to do so by some analysts last season as he was on the trading block.
We also heard during the season from league sources that the Bulls’ thinking might have started to trend in that direction.
Coby White’s Future With Bulls Still Uncertain
As the executive pointed out, the Bulls did not trade him at the deadline – though it was noted that there was “significant interest” in him around the league, per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic – so they do value in him that Karnisovas felt he wasn’t going to get back in a deal.
Perhaps he did that with Ball in mind. Or White’s progress simply spoke for itself and the former North Carolina Tar Heel earned it as it seems.
Either way, this figures to be a union that continues for at least some portion of next season.