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Former Tar Heel Coby White’s improvement, and what his future holds with the Chicago Bulls

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“I’ve seen the lowest of lows, and still I rose.” - J. Cole

Brooklyn Nets v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Coby White has looked like a completely different NBA player over the last 30+ days.

After struggling with turnover issues, inconsistent shooting, and taking a lot of heat for not showing point guard skills, White managed to improve in each of these areas in the month of April. In fact, if we want to narrow the scope a bit more, he’s really been impressive over the last 10 games. Prior to last night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets (which is currently happening at the time of writing this), Coby White averaged 19.4 points, 5.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.7 turnovers. During that time, White has shot 46.3% from the field and 42.9% from three-point range. To put his two most important stats into context — his perimeter shooting and his assists — he is now shooting at a 7% higher clip from deep, and is averaging 0.5 more assists per game.

When looking at the month of April, Coby White was much better at taking care of the ball than he has been lately, as he finished the month averaging 2.1 turnovers per game. Overall White has been a much better facilitator, as he is seeing the court much better, passing up bad shots more often, and his overall passing has improved. Now that Bulls teammate and NBA All-Star Zach LaVine has returned to the lineup, both players as well as Nikola Vucevic have been on a tear. How much of a tear? Try averaging 68 points per game as a trio:

Over the weekend Joe Cowley from the Chicago Sun-Times reported White’s thoughts on why he is doing so much better as of late:

“[The game’s] just kinda slowing down,’’ White said. “Like I always say, there’s always room for progress, so I know I got a long way to go, but it’s just slowing down, man. And, you know, my teammates are behind me, the coaching staff is behind me, everybody’s patient.”

Here’s what White had to say about the point guard position specifically:

“I know that this is what I want to do,’’ White said. “I know that this is what I work for each and every day. In the offseason, during the season . . . So I never really doubt myself. The people around me don’t even allow me to doubt myself, my circle don’t allow me to doubt myself. So I just continue to keep striving, continue to keep pushing. Everything will work itself out.’’

There is a lot of truth to everything that White said, especially the part about the patience that Bulls head coach has had for him. After benching him for a decent stretch, Donovan was forced to start him yet again after Tomas Satoransky had to miss time due to COVID protocol. During that time White’s performances were strong enough that when Satoransky returned Donovan did not banish White back to the bench. The team’s faith has definitely paid off from a production standpoint, though wins and losses were all over the place for other reasons (Zach LaVine missed a lot of time after testing positive for COVID-19).

Here is the problem with what Coby White said: the patience doesn’t exist in a large amount of the fan base. Similar to Bears fans with Mitch Trubisky (trust me, it’s not a coincidence), Bulls fans have been calling for the team to sign Lonzo Ball in the offseason to be the team’s new starting point guard. The never-ending take is that no matter how good or bad White has looked this season, fans still want a true point guard that is able to do things that the sophomore point guard either can’t do right now or doesn’t do as well. Some have even gone as far as wanting White traded, which at this particular stage sounds like the call for change for the sake of change.

The fact of the matter is this: whether or not White can be a true point guard in this league, he has shown that he does look much better than some of the players taking up cap space on the roster (I’m looking at you, Denzel Valentine). I couldn’t possibly begin to guess what Bulls GM Arturas Karnisovas’ plans are this offseason, but I would be stunned if they traded away Coby White for...well...anybody that isn’t a proven star in the league. This is still a very young team with a lot of potential, and if the Bulls decide to cave to mob mentality it will likely lead to extremely predictable Chicago sports teams results. Sure, they have a safety net of two NBA All-Stars on the roster, but to paint a very ugly picture: the Bulls’ bench in their win against the Celtics scored a total of 13 points. Needless to say, benching White again in a worst-case scenario is a much more palatable option than trading him.

Don’t just take my word for it: Kevin Durant thinks so too.

“Having Vučević come midseason, those guys trying to figure out who they are in such a fast pace, you know, the last 20 games of the season,” Durant said. “So I feel like they’re going to figure it out even more going into next season. But they have a lot of talent, a lot of different guys that can do a variety of things. But Zach and Vooch and Coby (White) I feel like are the key pieces to this team — and Patrick Williams.”

“When you got guys like them three, them two (LaVine and Vučević), sorry; I mean, s---, I want to throw Coby White in there too, cause I feel like he a part of their future, like he gonna be the guy as the point,” Durant said then. “You got three guys that can get it from three levels on the court. I don’t give a f--- what else you got. You got something with that. Two All-Stars at that, and another guy (White), who a wild card right now, but can go all crazy and get you 30 (points) any given night. When you got that on your team, that’s a great start.”

No matter what opinion exists out there about the young Bulls guard, the important thing is that he is not only getting better, but is showing that he 100% belongs in the NBA. To paraphrase a song from Lil’ Wayne’s The Carter III album: “If you don’t love him, somebody else will.” This should be a very, very interesting offseason for the former Tar Heel.