Bulls Urged to Consider ‘Smarter Play’ with Former Lottery Pick

Coby White, Chicago Bulls

Getty Coby White #0 of the Chicago Bulls participates in warmups

The Chicago Bulls have thus far decided against trading guard Coby White despite “taking calls on him”, per NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. Their reluctance to move on could lead to an even bigger decision as White enters his fourth NBA season.

Forbes contributor, Morten Jensen, suggests that the Bulls may want to explore a contract extension with White.

That is contrary to the tone that has surrounded White’s future this offseason.

But, as Jensen explained in a Twitter thread on July 3, there are several reasons for the Bulls to take their current resolve one step further. And, yes, a trade is still one of the potential benefits of what Jensen proposes as an option.

Flipped the Script

Jensen begins by acknowledging he too has been “entrenched in the idea of a White trade. But he adds that there is an argument to be made for an extension off of his rookie deal being the “smarter play”.

First, he explains how a venture into restricted free agency could get messy partly because of the uncertainty around the player.

“Teams aren’t exactly enthusiastic about dealing with restricted free agency, especially when it comes to players who are valued over the NTMLE, but below the max…Being far apart in negotiations is one thing. Having to deal with teams that up the price only adds to the complexity of the situation.”

The last time the Bulls let the market set the price for a player was when the Sacramento Kings signed Zach LaVine to an offer sheet as an unrestricted free agent in 2018. LaVine signed a max deal with the Bulls for $215 million this offseason. It was not always a given, though, and that summer had a lot to do with it.

But White is not LaVine.

White is coming off of a career year in terms of efficiency shooting 38.5% from beyond the arc; the team’s fourth-best mark on the third-highest volume during the regular season, per NBA.com. Those numbers cratered in the postseason with the 2019 seventh-overall pick connecting on just 27.6% of his triples.

Writing on the Wall

The Bulls’ offseason has also led to a glut of guards but a frontcourt lacking size and versatility. In the event the Bulls want to balance out their notable depth, Jensen says that a White extension keeps that option on the table and could make it easier to facilitate.

“You…cement the player’s earnings a year before the contract kicks in, which is good for planning for you, the player, and interested parties moving forward. If the Bulls extend White, and keep him around for another 18-ish months, you can shop him as a young player locked in for X amount of years, offering teams more contractual certainty…Most likely, some teams will be more inclined to trade for a long-term contract than wanting to deal with RFA.”

Jensen warns, “Going into this blind will always be a bad idea”, but notes a critical step to avoid that.

A step that the Bulls already took.

“Obviously, before you do anything, being able to gauge the market on how outside teams value him is crucial.”

Perhaps the “significant interest” in White that the Bulls received, per The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry, led to their hesitation. Or, at least convinced them that they too needed a little more information after White’s career had been littered with inconsistent conditions around him.

A Big Season Ahead

Johnson has reported that the expectation is now for White to stick around into the season. But the addition of Goran Dragic has many underlying, and still unknown, implications. Is it a sign that starting point guard Lonzo Ball is still having trouble recovering from a bone bruise in his knee?

Or is it a referendum that White’s minutes – which were already on life support following the emergence of Ayo Dosunmu as a rookie last season – are about to shrink considerably? That as much as anything could determine what the Bulls would be willing to offer.

A suitable contract still won’t be hammered out easily, says Jensen.

“What’s the price for White? Beats me. It’s certainly not easy to identify a number that makes sense for all parties. White could also outright reject everything and bet on himself. That’s his right. But in a market where the cap increases every year, and new TV money is soon to be coming in, the Bulls can get away with a deal that on the surface might look a wee bit generous…It all boils down to identifying the avenue that offers the Bulls the best chance of getting something of substance in return for White. Right now, you could make the argument that going the extension route offers that. Even if he isn’t in their long-term plans.”

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley graded this offseason a ‘C’ due to the changing Eastern Conference landscape.

And Mayberry said the Bulls did not take a step forward.

Would the Bulls extend White, while failing to fully address their other glaring needs in the eyes of some?

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