When the Bulls play their first game of the the next NBA season, Coby White will make his second career start. Probably.
The Bulls 2019 first-round draft pick cracked the All-Rookie 2nd Team roster after a quality season off the bench, but his first and only start came against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 10th, in what unexpectedly became the Bulls final game of the season. With Kris Dunn’s future in question, plus an underwhelming first season in Chicago from Tomas Satoransky, White is the clear-cut option to be the team’s new lead guard. But while the decision to start him may feel inevitable, White still has plenty to prove.
The soon-to-be NBA sophomore spoke with reporters a couple of weeks back about his focus on playmaking this offseason.
To prove he can be the longterm answer for the Bulls at point guard, there is no doubt he’ll need to bump-up the 2.7 assists he averaged last season, and he also hopes to improve is his efficiency. A naturally electric bucket-getter, White had too many nights where he was off his game, and he finished the 2019-20 season shooting only 39.4 percent from the field. Not great.
This is the area I want to focus on briefly, specifically as it pertains to White’s finishing around the rim. I don’t have any grand breakdown to provide you, nor do I have any big news, but in the limited footage we have seen of White scrimmaging in the Bulls bubble, he’s looked good attacking the basket.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 1, 2020
Be it in social media posts (like the one above) or in the All Access Mini-camp episodes on the team’s website (which I highly recommend), White can be seen with some sexy finishes around the rim. Considering that this certainly was NOT one of his strengths last season – he finished with a 49 percent clip (14th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass) – this is encouraging to see.
For reference, that places him in a similar camp as guards like Devonte Graham, Marcus Smart, Fred VanVleet, and Malcolm Brogdon. That’s not the worst company to keep, but none are viewed as a team’s primary point guard besides Brogdon, who does at least drive to the hoop far more often than White.
A large part of White’s game last season revolved around the 3-point shot, which meant only 31 percent of his field-goal attempts happened at the rim. No doubt, this number would feel more acceptable if White shot over 35 percent from downtown, but since he didn’t, the Bulls want to see him even things out a bit. Plus, it’s not like he isn’t capable of producing better in the paint. In college, he used his speed to blow past defenders and his size to finish at the hoop. He would draw contact fairly well and demonstrated good balance when doing so. All of this gives us reason to believe he’s capable of getting to the rim it at the NBA level, (and, for what it’s worth, he had his flashes this season). The question is just how long of an adjustment period will it be? And how efficiently can he do it?
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait quite some time to get an answer to those questions, but I am optimistic that with a new head coach on the sideline and a full (extended) offseason under his belt, we can see immediate improvement in this department.