Coby White’s stats do not tell the whole story.
Averaging 13.7 points, 5.0 assists, and 3.7 rebounds over the first three games feels pretty decent, especially when we consider that White’s best performance came in his most recent game against the Warriors (20 points, 5 assists, and 7 rebounds).
The rookie has shot a frustrating 35 percent from the field thus far, but it’s hard to imagine that number does not steadily improve over the next couple of games. After all, he is shooting a solid 39.1 percent from the behind the arc, and currently has his average heavily weighed down by a poor 2-11 shooting night in Game 1. The points will come for White. I’m not worried about it, and I bet you’re not either
The facilitating, on the other hand, that’s still a question mark. He might be adding more assists to the box score than last year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is doing it in the way this team needs. The offense has still struggled to find its groove, and White has missed several reads that we’ve seen more traditional guards like Tomas Satoransky make in his sleep.
This was evident during the preseason too. Sato can make passes that White just can't. Give these guys the same setup, and you're going to get very different reads and results.
— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 27, 2020
Still, I’m willing to give White more time. I know I’m higher on him than most, but I don’t think it’s fair to draw any conclusions about his ability to fill that role only three games into the season, particularly when there are so many other problems to take into account.
What I do think we can immediately be pretty darn concerned about, though, is White’s work on the defensive end. I’ve said before that he can be a better defender than he’s given credit for (again, I’m #AllAboardTheCobyWhiteBandwagon), and that’s in large part due to his decent positional size and naturally quick feet.
At the same time, White’s never been thought of as much of a defensive threat. Last season he finished tied for the worst defensive rating on the team and had the second-to-worst DBPM at -1.6. He struggles to guard the pick-and-roll, he reluctantly commits to switches, and he pretty easily gets tripped-up by more experienced guards. Plus, it doesn’t help that he was gifted a rather disappointing wingspan at six-foot-four.
More minutes in the starting role could certainly help him improve, as that’s often the only way to fix something in the NBA. Sometimes you just need to throw someone into the deep end and see if they swim. And, boy-oh-by, is White about to be thrown into the depths of the ocean over the next couple of weeks.
After already letting Trae Young go for 37 (also largely on Zach LaVine who started on Young that game), Brogdon go for 18, and Steph Curry go for 36 points, White will now have to face Russell Westbrook/Bradley Beal, Jrue Holiday, Damian Lillard, De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Schroder, Marcus Smart, and John Wall over the next couple of weeks. All present their own unique challenges for the second-year guard, let alone the team as a whole.
For guys like Westbrook, Lillard, and Fox, specifically, how well they perform heavily dictates whether or not their team can pull off the W. In other words, how well White can defend will likely make or break the Bulls chances in many of these games going forward. What sucks for the Bulls too is that they can’t necessarily hide him. LaVine isn’t any more equipped to handle these kinds of players, even if his on-ball defense has looked improved in recent games. The Bulls could also always try to give the longer Tomas Satoransky a bigger role, but all signs point to them being firmly invested in White moving forward.
At this rate, there is nothing that is going to save White from being exploited on the defensive end. Well, nothing but improvement.