The Bulls telegraphed their intention of bringing in a point guard in last night’s draft, and they made good on that promise, using the No. 7 pick to fulfill such a desire with Coby White out of North Carolina. He was a consensus mock selection right after the lottery. That in itself makes White a selection for fit, a safe one at that.
I felt somewhat deflated after being ever so close to Jarrett Culver (who went the pick prior to Minnesota after they traded up to No. 6), exactly the type of two-way player this rebuild desperately need, only to be left with White. I’m aware that it’s wildly unfair to heap my own failed expectations on White. After all, he has every chance at being a quality player and fills an obvious need. But that too is why his drafting feels hollow.
However, the alternatives after the top six look to have been worse. The Bulls were ”intrigued” by Texas center Jaxson Hayes, but as a project big man on a team who already drafted a center and power forward in the previous two drafts his fit never seemed logical. Cam Reddish may have appealed to some, perhaps if you squint hard enough and ignore his ghastly shooting percentages from his lone season in college.
We know the draft to be a subjective gamble. But for this opinionated blogger, at least, neither Hayes, Reddish, or anyone else taken after the Bulls selection should leave us feeling disappointed in White’s arrival to Chicago. I came to that realisation after the despair of losing out on Culver dissipated.
Such a reality may not excite many, but in White, the team has found their next youthful project to pin their point guard hopes upon. More importantly, though, there’s every reason to believe White can develop into a productive player: White’s blazing speed and guile makes him a menace in transition with ball in hand, and as one of the best catch-and-shoot options in the draft, his 3-point shooting as a trail option will be difficult to contain.
That, of course, assumes the coach will allow his team to get out and run.
As a collective, we did our darnedest to wipe the memories of last season from our minds. But for those of us still dealing with the trauma, the remnants of Jim Boylen’s archaic offense continue to haunt. He may have done so to “prepare the child for the road,” but it’s something that absolutely can’t happen again. This is especially true for White, who, though learning to operate as a facilitator, is really a combo guard who thrives in transition. As such, developing as a creator within a fast-paced offense is made easier when playing open and free rather than navigating through ready and prepared defensive traffic in halfcourt sets.
The good news: In the wake of the selection of White, John Paxson at least paid lip service to the implementing a faster brand of offense next season. He used the words “modern”, “space”, and mentioned hiring of new assistant coach Chris Fleming while decidedly not mentioning that he fired similarly-minded Fred Hoiberg to promote Boylen.
And Paxson insisted that Boylen is not at-odds with the hottest NBA trend of 2014 (anymore):
Given Boylen’s desire to please his bosses, you’d imagine he’ll let White play to his strengths and not try to force-feed him into a slowdown offense, which he put upon the Bulls for much of last season. Late Thursday night, Paxson chuckled at the idea that they’re pushing a faster pace onto Boylen.
“We’re not pushing anything onto our head coach,” he said. “Jim wants to play faster...
How Boylen and the Bulls explore these boundaries remains to be seen. It would be wise, though, for the coach to not overwhelm his new, young guard with too much responsibility too soon. Such an onus falls on Bulls management, too. They’re the true gatekeepers of White’s success, and ensuring his best projectable outcome proves true can only come by learning from past indiscretions.
Point guard has been an obvious weakness for years. We all know this. Still, the Bulls actively choosing to rebuild around two young bigs and handing over the entire reins of the offense to a handful of inexperienced guards without any veteran playmakers insight hasn’t received enough traction as a truly disastrous decision — it was beyond negligent to enter last season with Cameron Payne as Kris Dunn’s backup. That can’t happen again.
The failure of Dunn should be a cautionary tale in how the team should manage White, who will need time to improve as a passer and decision maker. The Bulls can buy White time by remaining steadfast in acquiring a mature point guard in free agency. Such a move will greatly benefit White, but also the other young players on the roster who feast when the table has already been set. Immediately after White was selected, KC Johnson used the adjective “low-cost” when describing possible veteran additions, which isn’t encouraging.
Whether Dunn is part of the rotation remains to be seen, and ultimately will be determined during free agency. His presence, though, shouldn’t be impacted by White given the rookie’s score-first mentality and ability to fill both backcourt positions. In fact, given Dunn and White stand 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5, respectively, their skills as backup guards crossover nicely on both ends — Dunn leading the second unit as its primary ball-handler and checking shooting guards, while White spaces the floor, creates in secondary action, and defends point guards is something management should seriously consider.
And so it makes sense for the Bulls to invest in White (even if the team didn’t put him through an individual workout.) And while narrowly missing out on Culver momentarily flattened my spirits, the more we learn about White and the character he is, the easier it will be to enjoy his presence in Chicago. Take, for example, this genuine and real reaction to learning his Tar Heel teammate, Cameron Johnson, had been drafted several picks after at No. 11 overall by the Suns.
Coby White's reaction to Cam Johnson getting drafted No. 11 overall to Phoenix is priceless. pic.twitter.com/W2Oe6BSvkR— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) June 21, 2019
That raw moment won’t make White a better prospect, but it does give insight into who the rookie is as a person.
White should be a good Chicago Bull too. That is, so long as the team gives the 19-year-old guard the necessary time and support needed, and allow him to operate in the correct role. Do that, and the Bulls will have a productive player on their hands for years to come.