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Coby White’s Emergence

Coby White Bulls
(Wendell Cruz/ USA Today Sports)

Coby White entered the NBA at quite a tumultuous time, both for the franchise that drafted him and the league itself. The Jim Boylen-led Chicago Bulls went 22-43 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The team’s future looked bleak, and of course, there was a freaking pandemic after all. Fast forward to today, and Coby White is leading the Bulls through a mid-season turnaround after an abysmal 5-14 start. He’s averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and assists, all while notching such statistics at a much higher efficiency. The former Tar Heel is finally coming into form, making the multi-year extension the Bulls inked with him look like an even better decision. Coby White’s breakout season should surprise nobody.


Early and Often

Selected 7th overall by Chicago in 2019, Coby White was seen as a raw talent whose innate scoring ability would likely translate at the next level. His rookie season saw him do just that, finishing out the year as the Bulls third leading scorer. Through varying levels of playing time, White has consistently been a decent option to put points on the board. On top of aspirations that White would develop into a higher volume scorer, the Bulls were unsure if White could improve on his playmaking ability to truly embrace the “combo guard” role he was touted as. This became a much more pressing matter ever since point guard Lonzo Ball went down with knee ailments as the Bulls looked to White to fill his shoes.


Coby White during his time at North Carolina before entering the 2019 NBA draft. (Paul Sancya/AP)

Coby has broken through to become the first homegrown talent in the Bulls’ system in a few years. When Zach Lavine went down in November, White stepped up to take control of the offense alongside Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan, and he’s been off to the races ever since. He can use his 6’5’’ frame to score at the rim through contact. His playmaking has led to a much better team-centric offense, taking the pressure off of DeRozan’s isolation situations. And critically, White is shooting over 40% from behind the arc for a team that has been in need of better outside shooting for a long time. No secret that this guy is a fan favorite for a reason. 


What’s Next

White’s future continues to look brighter each game. His coach, Billy Donovan, recently remarked that he expects accolades in the guard’s future, saying, “I think Coby, going forward, if he can continue to stay on this path, he’ll be a guy that will be considered for an All-Star Game. I think he’s got that kind of ability.”

At the moment, it’s uncertain which direction the Bulls are heading in. The Zach Lavine trade rumors, plus a looming threat of a rebuild from the front office, make the future look murky at best. It’s hard to imagine that White would be included in any deals before the deadline this year based on his game’s giant step forward. But GM Arturas Karnisovas has been noticeably inactive in the market during his tenure, drawing the ire of fans and confusion of NBA insiders. If he decides to go all-in on a roster revamp, who’s to say that anyone on the roster is off-limits? White is a solid plug-and-play guy for any team, regardless of their tier. So, although Bulls fans are quickly warming up to him, there’s no guarantee his time in Chicago will survive the trade market or free agency down the line.

Regardless, the emergence of Coby White as a young leader of the Chicago Bulls has been welcomed by all. As someone still likely entering his prime, we should expect to see his name pop up in our all-star ballots for years to come.



Andy Diederich is a contributor on Back Sports Page. He received a degree from The Ohio State University and now resides in Chicago, covering the Bulls and all things NBA. You can find Andy on Instagram at @tryspellingdiederich and on Twitter at @ndyDiederich.

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