It’s no secret that when players are a lottery pick in the NBA, chances are they are going to a team that needs a lot of work. This was no different when the Chicago Bulls drafted Coby White with the seventh overall pick, but the noise this summer coming from many analysts was that this team may have had enough pieces to make a playoff run. Well, we are now a few weeks into the regular season and that noise has turned into a very faint whisper drowned out in groans of agony and pain. I should know, I’m one of those people groaning.
We’re not here to discuss the entire Bulls roster/coaching staff. We’re here to discuss the Tar Heel that has entered the NBA and is doing everything he can to help this team get things back to the way they were before Derrick Rose left the Windy City. So far that journey has been met with some ups and downs, but for the most part Coby White has navigated the NBA the best he can.
White comes off of the bench for the Bulls, as their starting guard positions are taken by NBA veterans Zach Lavine and Tomas Satoransky. Rather than designating him as a point guard or a shooting guard, head coach Jim Boylen simply calls him a “guard”, as he likes to play multiple point guards at once. Yes, you read that correctly. For example, here is a very real lineup that has been on the floor at the same time on multiple occasions, and I’ll label who plays which position based on the information provided by ESPN:
- Coby White (point guard)
- Kris Dunn (point guard)
- Ryan Arcidiacano (point guard)
- Luke Kornet (power forward)
- Thaddeus Young (power forward)
While the NBA has become more and more fluid with position designations, the issue is that this many ball-handlers in the backcourt at once is messy to say the least. Usually in a lineup like this, Kris Dunn seems to find the ball the most as a point guard, leaving White to essentially play as the “shooting guard.” While he does manage to get his hands on the ball as a point guard during games, Boylen’s triple point guard lineup produces a lot of chaos and confusion. There’s been more than a few occasions when White can be seen standing in the corner either half or completely open, but the ball-handler either doesn’t look his way or decides that the current moment is a great time to show that they deserve to be a starter by executing a reckless play. Dunn and White being on the floor at the same time specifically has been pretty maddening, and Boylen needs to abandon this weird lineup if he wants to get some of the bizarre mistakes corrected.
In the realm of what can be controlled, Coby’s season overall has been a tough one. He is currently shooting 34.4% from the field, and has made 21.2% of his shots from deep. While in a vacuum his numbers are terrible and these are stats that would typically hold a team back, his numbers are in actuality a reflection of the entire Bulls roster. The entire team is making 42.8% of their field goal attempts, and they are also only making 31.3% of their three-pointers. Out of the 30 teams in the NBA, the Bulls rank 27th and 25th in those areas, respectively. It’s really odd silver lining, and one would hope that White’s shots begin to fall for him soon so he can help his team out.
As far as his assist-to-turnover ratio goes, White has been in the positives despite the criticism that he isn’t a true point guard. His current ratio is +1.8, which is the fourth-best among players that have spent time at the “point guard” position, and is the sixth-best ratio on the entire roster. To shed some additional perspective on the matter, however, White is only turning the ball over 1.3 times per game, which is a better average than even starting point guard Tomas Satoransky’s 2.0 per game.
When focusing on assists alone, White’s 2.4 per game is a frustrating stat for anybody who has ever watched at least a few games this season. He has created more than enough plays for his team, and arguably they have been good plays, but the ball has often missed the mark as the shooting stats above reflect. There really isn’t a whole lot to knock about what he’s been able to do from a facilitation perspective, though it’s very clear that he is still on the same learning curve in that particular role that he was at UNC. The NBA has been rather kind to him in that regard, however, because I do think the spacing has helped his game a lot. He still has a few things to learn, but I’d be surprised if we don’t see some growth throughout the rest of the season.
Overall, Coby White’s season has been one of many trials and tribulations, which have both been controllable and uncontrollable. It’s still extremely early in the season, however, and I think once his shot starts to fall everything else will fall into place a bit better. After finally getting to see him play in the United Center, I can say for certain that Bulls fans love the former UNC star, as he got the biggest ovation off of the bench of any player that set foot on the court. White will be just fine in the NBA, but patience is the name of the game until things get straightened out individually, on a team level, and to be very honest, on an organizational level as well. Here’s hoping he develops into even half as good of a player as that other former Tar Heel that ended up being pretty good for the Chicago Bulls.