Please don’t prove me wrong, Coby White. While I understand expectations must remain tempered after only one preseason game, the hype for White has been building for months.
Chicago Bulls fans watched the guard put together easily the most complete season of his career during the 2022-23 campaign. Sure, the Basketball-Reference page doesn’t jump off the page, but his night-to-night play exploded off the screen. We’ve talked ad nauseam about White’s improvement as both a defender and ball-handler. Meanwhile, his 3-point stroke and ability to score in transition remained as effective as ever.
White finished the season with a positive on/off efficiency differential for the first time in his career. His +5.2 performance ended up ranking in the 81st percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. And this newfound effectiveness is exactly why general manager Marc Eversley gushed about White’s potential in several offseason interviews. The latest came in an appearance on BullsTV’s All-Access, where Eversley pointed toward White as the prime example of how the organization hopes to develop talent.
“When you talk about player development, I think Coby White is kind of the gold standard of what we’re trying to achieve here. He’s gotten better every single year. His second half of the season last year was a direct result of the hard work he’s put in [and] our coaching staff has put in. I’m expecting big things from Coby White year,” Eversley said.
Comments like these set the bar high for the fifth-year guard, as does inking him to a fresh multi-year deal this offseason. The Chicago Bulls are clearly expecting him to continue on an upward trajectory, and he at least flashed signs of that in the team’s first preseason game against Milwaukee.
White scored 14 points with 6 assists, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals on Sunday afternoon. Not only did he help the offense play uptempo and find open teammates with strong interior passing, but he also created his own shot by attacking the rim and hunting spot-up attempts behind the arc. Once again, White simply looked like a complete player. And he also proceeded to sound like one.
In a conversation with reporters earlier this week at practice, White talked about finally finding his voice. He mentioned that in previous seasons it felt hard to decide when to speak up. Now, he understands that his perspective matters.
“It’s kind of like you get that mindset ‘well, they have more experience’ or ‘they know more than me.’ My opinion doesn’t matter, my voice doesn’t matter,” White said of his first few years in the league (h/t CHGO Bulls). “But I didn’t really know how much guys really respected my opinion until last year and my connections with every guy on the team. So it’s just carried even more to this year. I’m just continuing to grow, to get better at it. It really feels natural to me at this point.”
It sure doesn’t feel like a coincidence that White’s improved play on the court overlapped with a growing confidence off the court. Finding your voice and having more open communication can go a long way toward better understanding the game and your teammates.
Hearing stuff like this is what makes me feel as if White might actually be a necessary part of the team’s starting lineup. I’ve been rather adamant that I preferred his skills off the bench, but if he walks the walk and talks the talk … the Bulls might truly have their new starting point guard.