Coby White

Chicago Bulls Offseason Notebook Vol. 6 – It’s time to trust Coby White more

There’s been a recent trend with the Bulls that their fans haven’t been thrilled with. That trend is giving up on young players too early. Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. are the latest examples, but it also goes back to the team having Spencer Dinwiddie and Max Strus in their G-League program and not ever bringing them up to the NBA roster. 

The Bulls made it a clear priority to bring back young guards Ayo Dosumnu and Coby White (both 23 years old) and they were able to sign both of them to very reasonable deals. We will be focusing on Coby White for this post (not to fear, Ayo will get his own post). The Bulls signed Coby to a 3 year $40 million deal. Now that the team has invested in Coby off the court, it’s time to invest in him on the court as well. 

Coby wasn’t much more than a microwave scorer his first few seasons in the league. Even in that role, he lacked the playmaking skills required to create for himself and others, this sometimes made it hard for White to play large minutes, especially after the team moved up their timeline with an eye towards the playoffs. When the Bulls’ old front office drafted Coby, they saw a combo guard that could hopefully light it up and hopefully get to a point of passable on defense, similar to the archetype of players like Anfernee Simons or Tyler Herro.

It is yet to be seen whether or not Coby can catch up to those guys as pure scorers, but last season Coby did something neither of those players has yet, take a major step defensively to not only become passable, but a flat out positive on that end.

Coby’s ability to be an effective defender at guarding the ball and defending away from the ball without getting stuck on picks was a bright spot last season, and naturally, it also makes him much more playable on a team that needs his offense and shooting on the court. 

Another element of Coby’s game that is worth pointing out is that he is at his best offensively at attacking in secondary actions or when the defense has collapsed and the ball gets kicked out to him. 

This is another reason why Billy Donovan should be taking every opportunity for Coby to play with the trio of LaVine, DeRozan, and Vučević. A lineup that I don’t think got as much run as it maybe should have last season, including in the play-in game where the Bulls were eliminated by the Heat.

It’s no secret that the Bulls had a hard time spacing the floor last season. In the 4th quarter of that play-in game, Coby hit 3 crucial 3-pointers with the Heat compacting the paint. Donovan elected to take Coby out for the last 5ish minutes in favor of defense with Pat Bev. The spacing fell apart and took the Bulls’ offense with it, the team went ice cold down the stretch and the Heat were able to pull out the win.

I still don’t agree with Donovan pulling Coby at that moment, but his reasoning to do so was that he was favoring defense over floor spacing. So every improvement Coby can continue to make on that end will be huge for the Bulls.

The 4-man lineup of Coby, LaVine, DeRozan, and Vučević had an offensive rating of 121.3 in 205 minutes played according to That is a pretty big jump from the 112.8 rating the Bulls put up overall. Good (or maybe I should say bad) for 24th in the league. I honestly think the Bulls should be taking the approach of playing those 4 guys together and inserting a defender into the last spot, whether it be Caruso, Carter, Williams, Craig, or Dosumnu, the Bulls will have plenty of options for that final spot.

The lineup I’m probably most interested in seeing this upcoming season is the squad of Coby, Jevon Carter, LaVine, DeRozan, and Vučević. I love the idea of the Bulls playing two guys capable of shooting 3s at a high volume and attacking closeups around their 3 best players. 

I’m always a fan of having Alex Caruso out there at the end of games because he always has a knack for drawing a charge or getting a steal in a big moment.

The Bulls managed to steal a big game from their divisional rival the Bucks by going to a group of Coby, Caruso, LaVine, DeRozan, and Vučević. A lineup I’m surprised the Bulls didn’t go to more often considering their struggles to close out clutch games last season. You could see the benefit of having a floor spacer like White out there as well as a great defender like Caruso in that game.

As Coby continues to develop, I only hope that it becomes harder and harder to keep him off the floor. I’ve been focusing on his development on defense a lot, it is also important to point out Coby improved his all around game and became one of the better bench players in the league. Another reason why it was hard to play Coby major minutes when he didn’t provide much outside of scoring, is that LaVine plays a similar position and is a much better scorer.

Coby’s improved ball handling and playmaking in transition could be big for a team that has struggled to get out and run since losing Lonzo Ball. The Bulls’ offense needs Coby and LaVine to play together for long stretches, and that means Coby needs to find ways outside of just purely scoring to contribute.

There is some thought that Coby could contend for the starting point guard position with his improved all-around game. Michael Shearer wrote a little about this while doing his Something Positive About Every NBA Team Series. If Coby is able to take another big leap this offseason, I’m not opposed to the idea of him starting, I also like the idea of him still coming off the bench and being a 6th Man of The Year contender if that happens. Coby can of course still close games in this scenario.

Coby will probably never be the 25 ppg scorer that the Bulls thought they drafted, but he has developed into a very good all-around player that doesn’t have any clear hole in his game. The Bulls’ offense is better with Coby on the floor, and they need to trust the strides he has made in his overall game for this team to level up.

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Reilly is from Naperville, IL and is a big Bulls and Michigan State Spartans fan. He enjoys spending time with loved ones, watching movies, and coaching Water Polo when he isn’t watching basketball or deep diving Basketball-Reference and Follow him on Twitter at @McDReilly97!