Bulls Former Top-10 Pick Touts Versatility Amid Uncertain Future

Coby White

Getty Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat moves against Coby White #0 of the Chicago Bulls.

It is common to hear that Player X is “all-in” and “in the best shape of his life” at this time of the NBA season. But for Chicago Bulls guard Coby White, that is as true as ever. White, heading into his fourth season, is also going into the final year of his rookie contract with restricted free agency looming at the end of this campaign.

This summer, however, the Bulls went about adding plenty of depth at White’s listed position, point guard, in light of Lonzo Ball’s surgery that is expected to keep him out through New Year’s Day.

Additions of Goran Dragic likely means White gets little time at point guard with Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu also vying for minutes there.

But White has been in this situation before and is attacking it with a positive mindset.

White Touts Versatility

“Whatever I can do to help my team do that, that’s all I care about,” White told reporters after a recent practice. “And I believe everything else will take care of itself.”

That is a good attitude to have and one that White has displayed in a career that has included just one fully healthy offseason – this one – since White entered the league. From injuries to COVID shutdowns to regime changes, White had not had the opportunity to put in the type of offseason that he desired until now.

“Getting it in the weight room. Working on my handle. And working on shooting off the dribble. And just making shots, contested shots with a defense. I worked on a lot of that this summer – my footwork on the defensive end. So, I worked on a lot and I feel like I got better in a lot of aspects. I was just happy I could get a summer where I could work on my game with the people I wanted around me.”

Another solid perspective to have and all of the work he put in will be needed if he is going to prove that he deserves to be on the floor. He will need to show that those defensive gains and progress as a playmaker are sustainable and not just camp speak.

As it stands, White has been a good but streaky shooter (38.5% 3P in 2022) but little else.

“The one thing we had talked about going into the summer,” Billy Donovan said, “is, ‘Listen, there’s a lot of things you do. It doesn’t need to always be you got to be at the point, you always got to be at the two’”.

He added that he wants White to play to his strengths and the young guard agrees.

“I take pride in being able to play multiple positions, so that’s nothing new to me. I’ve been doing that since I’ve been here. I take pride in playing 1, 2, 3. Wherever they want me at…As long as I’m getting minutes and on the floor, I don’t really care.”

Is White More Than a PG?

There are several things working against White. But there is also a good reason for him to promote his positional versatility despite the apparent logjam at his best position. In his career, White has played an overwhelming amount of his minutes as a point guard.

That trend was especially true last season as he spent 99% of his floor time there, per Basketball-Reference.

But, to White’s point, that was more the anomaly than the norm for him.

Since being drafted out of North Carolina with the seventh-overall pick in 2019, White has played approximately 18% of his minutes at shooting guard with just 4% coming at small forward and none of those in the last two years. The reason could be the type of player Donovan and Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas have targeted since arriving.

White is listed at 6-foot-4 and has a wingspan of 6-foot-5.

Compare that to Dosunmu, last year’s 38th-overall pick. He is also listed at 6-foot-4 but boasts a 6-foot-8 wingspan. Even more, both of the Bulls’ last two first-round picks – Patrick Williams (fourth overall, 2020) and Dalen Terry (18th overall, 2022) sport 7-foot wingspans.

Working in White’s favor is that, despite playing “point guard” almost exclusively last season, a career-high 65.2% of his made looks came on an assist.

A Win-Win for White

“I just play basketball, bro,” White said denying there was any added pressure given the context of this season. “I’m just looking at it as another season. Come in, help my team. We’re really focused on winning here, going to the second round of the playoffs, and so on.”

White has previously spoken of the Bulls’ high standards so it’s not surprising to hear him take everything in stride despite the uncertainty surrounding his future.

But the best thing he can do is buy in and prove he’s made the improvements claimed.

“(We) wanted him to focus on his defense, I think he really tried to do that,” said Donovan. “Wanted him to focus on off-ball shooting and catching. Wanted him to focus on playing in pick-and-roll. Wanted him to focus on impacting the game on both ends of the floor.”

We will see if he can do that and if that leads to a trade deadline deal as planned or something else for the Bulls’ former “point guard of the future”.

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