The Bulls Still See Coby White as Part of the Plans, But How Big of a Role do They Expect Him to Play?

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The Bulls Still See Coby White as Part of the Plans, But How Big of a Role do They Expect Him to Play?

Chicago Bulls

Last offseason, what Chicago didn’t say spoke volumes. Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley added only Garrett Temple and Patrick Williams to a hand-me-down roster after a summer of internal change. The moves – or rather lack thereof – told fans that the upcoming season would be one centered strongly around evaluation. And, indeed, it was.

In fact, we started to see what came of that evaluation at the trade deadline. Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter, Daniel Gafford, Chandler Hutchison, and Luke Kornet were all sent elsewhere, failing whatever test the front office had in mind. There is no question more members of the Bulls 2020-21 roster will face a similar fate this offseason. Who exactly those players will be is a hard question to answer. Who those players will not be, on the other hand, feels pretty cut and dry.

Coby White is safe. Billy Donovan’s endless backing of the second-year guard made that clear this season, and White’s inclusion in the “core” section of the more recent episode of BullsTV’s Run With Us did the same. Then, of course, there are the comments of  Karnisovas, who not only praise White but talked down his one glaring issue.

“We have a big now that can play-make. We have Zach. What is point guard these days in the league? All point guards have to score, right? So we’ll see,” Karnisovas said and his end of season press conference. “He’s going to keep adding things to his game. I hope to see him grow this summer, come back, and – again – nothing is given in this league. He fought for the starting job. He showed some improvements, so I’m expecting next year for him to show up and be better than he was this year.

What is different about White than his core counterparts like Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, and Patrick Williams, is the lack of a clear position. The Bulls gave him a shot at running lead guard duties this season, and while he did not completely fall face-first, he did slip quite a bit. Donovan kept White as the team’s starter for only 36 games before turning back to the more experienced Tomas Satoransky. White may still have been able to find the bottom of the net on any given night (averaged 16.1 ppg), but he failed to show signs of efficiently leading an offense by repeatedly missing the open man and coughing up costly turnovers.

Fortunately, things changed on April 16th when White was thrust back into a starting role due to LaVine’s stint in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols. He may not have been immaculate, but he was noticeably more comfortable and in control. In fact, he looked so much more in control that he stayed in the starting five even when LaVine returned. Overall, he went on to average 17.6 points, 5.9 assists, and 3.9 rebounds over his final 18 starts.

White connected the turnaround to the work of assistant coach Maurice Cheeks. Donovan connected it to the new presence of Nikola Vucevic. Whatever the reason might be, White’s final stretch of the season reminded many of his potential. The questions remained, though: Can that potential be reached at point guard? And if so, how soon?

Eighteen games do not tell us a lot. While it’s nice to see White build some momentum as he heads into the offseason, it does not take away from the fact that he is not a natural facilitator. With high-usage All-Stars like Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic on the floor, as well as an up-and-coming potential star like Patrick Williams, someone is going to have to adequately share the wealth. With that being the case, I was a bit surprised to hear Karnisovas imply that White could still be in the running for the starting point guard job moving forward. Don’t get me wrong, I still expect them to add a viable starting option this offseason, but I do wonder how big of a role the front office still believes White should have. And, even more importantly, hot the interpretation of that role can impact the upcoming free agency.

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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.