The front office has put a lot of trust in Coby White.
The 22-year-old guard remains just one of two players from the original roster Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley took over in 2020. Not only did they gift him the starting point guard job during the 2020-21 season, but they opted to keep him as part of the massive roster overhaul despite his struggles in that position. He then came into this year set to play the off-the-bench scoring role many thought would fit him best from the jump. And while we saw glimpses of what he could do in that position, there was nothing consistent about it.
“I feel like it’s going to help me in the long run, but any player would want to know on a nightly basis what are you doing. What are you getting into,” White said in his end-of-season press conference about wearing so many hats. “This season was a lot different, but sometimes I feel like in a season too you can’t help it because we had injuries, we had COVID, we had all of the above.”
Indeed, “consistent” might be one of the worst possible words to describe White’s first three seasons in the NBA (and my workout regimen, FWIW). His head coach changed, his offense changed, his responsibilities in that offseason changed. This season was supposed to be the time when all that craziness came to an end … but it turned out to be the exact opposite.
White found himself starting 17 games and having to fill holes created by injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. Not to mention, White missed 21 games – 13 of which came to start the year due to an offseason shoulder surgery (an entire offseason of on-court development was stripped away, ugh).
To his credit, White did manage to string together a decent campaign, averaging a career-high 38.5 percent from downtown on 5.8 attempts per contest. He also flashed some improved playmaking. While his diminished ball-handling responsibilities surely played part in his significant drop in overall turnovers from 156 last season to just 70 this season, White was still noticeably more comfortable with the ball in his hands in key moments.
Nevertheless, White’s points per game dropped from 15.1 to an underwhelming 12.7. His shot was also as unstable as his role, as he sank just 32.5 percent of his threes over the final 15 games of the regular season. At the end of the day, Chicago had one of the least impactful offensive bench units in the NBA, and it’s left me scratching the same old spot on my head when it comes to White’s future.
He said it himself, it would be nice to have the same role on a more regular basis, but can the Bulls supply him with that? Heck, do they still want to supply him with that?
Lonzo Ball inked a four-year, $80 million deal. Alex Caruso signed a four-year, $37 million deal. Ayo Dosunmu might very well be the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft. I’ve long been a White believer, and I’m still high on his potential to be a go-to bench scorer. But are the Bulls ready to give him a rookie contract extension this summer? I have zero clue, and I don’t think White does either:
“Whatever role it may be,” White said when asked about a new deal. “Like I always said, whatever happens happens at the end of the day. I haven’t thought about the offseason yet and those type of things. The season just ended yesterday. I’m just taking it day by day. I always stay in the moment.”
White would still be a restricted free agent next year, which means the Bulls will have the right to hand him a new contract at that time if they choose not to do so over the next couple of months. However, it’s not hard to imagine that White – a still-young player with plenty of offensive upside – could have a fair share of interest from rebuilding cap space teams during the 2023 offseason. And, duh, that means the Bulls run the risk of getting outbid and losing a player for nothing, which is never good.
So I guess that brings us to this question: Would the Bulls consider trading White?
Karnisovas’ actions at the trade deadline suggested he wanted to keep the young guard, but that was also before the Bulls’ disastrous end to the season. It’s become clear now the organization is in desperate need of more proven depth, and dangling White’s name in the trade market could be the best way to add someone who checks that box.
If one thing is for sure, I have to suspect Karnisovas would talk about trading White before he talks about trading Patrick Williams. Not only does Williams satisfy a greater position of need, but he is also the higher-ceiling youngster who happens to be this front office’s own draft selection.
I’m not at all sure what White’s market is around the league right now, and I have to imagine a deal would not simply be a one-for-one player swap. Yet, I can’t help but view White as arguably the most likely to be traded on the team this summer. Whether it be the inability to find him a stable role or the mere need for more win-now pieces around this team’s core, White might make sense elsewhere. We’ll see.