The Chicago Bulls starting point guard job looks like it is Coby White’s to lose.
Coby White says Billy Donovan told him he wants him to be the #Bulls’ primary ball handler and primary point guard.— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 2, 2020
According to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson, White is ready for the challenge: working on his decision making in pick-and-roll situations, his pull-up shooting, and his finishing at the rim in preparation for this expanded role.
“I’m always going to be hungry. I’m always going to play with that chip on my shoulder. I don’t really see myself losing it. But I’m going to come in and I’m going to compete like I don’t got it.
“Me and [Tomáš Satoranský] always compete every time out there on the court, so it’s going to be fun to compete against Sato. I don’t look at it like I’ve already got the spot because anything can happen. I’m just looking at it as I’m going in to compete, and I’m going to play hard, and I’m going to be the best competitor out there.”
It looks like White is the next anointed “point guard of the future”, replacing Kris Dunn. The good news is he’s shown much more promise early on in his NBA career than any of the other guys who got ordained with that title since Derrick Rose was traded.
So, it’s probably a good thing that new head coach Billy Donovan is giving him the keys to the offense recognizing that he’s probably the future at that position. Groom and season him now when the Bulls are still bad to mediocre and when all the mistakes he’ll inevitably make are still acceptable.
Donovan has coached Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul (and Jason Williams in college), so he’s no stranger to elite floor generals. I trust he knows what he’s doing giving White the added responsibility this season.
But also this roster provides Donovan no alternative. Tomas Satoransky is not a driving and distributing PG, and overall was mediocre to the point where it was easy to forget he was on the team. And at age 29 he’s probably not going to be around if and when the Bulls get good again. Beyond that there’s fringe NBA-ers like Ryan Arciacono and Devon Dotson, plus wings that can handle a bit but shouldn’t be the primary playmaker like Zach LaVine, Denzel Valentine, and Garrett Temple.
If the Bulls do follow through with giving White the starting point guard role, there are two major things to look for:
First off, how will he mesh with LaVine? Per BasketballReference.com, opponents outscore the Bulls by nearly 11 points when those two share the floor. A lot of that is probably because they are both poor defenders (115.0 defensive rating when they share the floor per NBA.com). But the 105.1 offensive rating they post when they share the floor together is actually slightly worse than the Bulls overall offensive rating last year of 105.8.
That needs to improve dramatically if those two guys are to be the backcourt of the future. LaVine’s usage percentage was also top 10 last season in the NBA. If White does indeed get lead ball handler and point guard duties, playing off the ball will be an adjustment for LaVine as well.
The second question for White is if he can bring the full package offensively as a point guard or is he just a microwave scorer. Point guard is an exceedingly difficult position to break into in the NBA so it probably isn’t surprising he turned the ball over (1.7 per game) nearly as many times as he assisted (2.7 per game). Both the eye test and the most basic of basketball statistics indicate he often looks like for his own shot first.
Hopeful Coby can become lead creator w/2nd year bump but he was not that last year— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) December 2, 2020
AST% - 34th %ile
USG:AST - 15th %ile
TO% - 67th %ile
84th in potential ASTs
93rd in secondary ASTs
Basically didn't pass/create for others. Has to completely change his approach in this new role https://t.co/Vp1iGFHCyN
But, there is anecdotal evidence that he has it in him:
Coby White steal and a great pass to LaVine in transition. He's had the two best plays of the half for the Bulls. pic.twitter.com/wxuHKf2cPx— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) February 12, 2020
With this roster staying as-is besides losing a PG, it looks like Coby White will have every opportunity to show he’s the Bulls point guard of the future.