A storyline that came to the forefront for the Chicago Bulls in the last few weeks is the inconsistent scoring production of the third-year point guard Coby White. The questions of when he will be back at full strength after making his season debut earlier this month are commonplace now.
White made his season debut a couple of weeks ago in a road win for the Bulls over the Los Angeles Lakers. And while it looks like White, at times, is getting more comfortable, his production is anything but consistent even in the last few games.
A good example is the play of Coby in the Bulls’ dominant 35-point road win on Nov. 26 over the Orlando Magic compared to his performance in the three-point loss to the Miami Heat at home on Nov. 27. In their Nov. 26 win over the Magic, White had his best performance of the season so far.
In that game, White registered a season-high 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. He also came up with four rebounds, two assists, one steal, no blocks, and just one turnover. That was good for White’s best game score of the season so far at 17.7.
But White’s offensive production fell flat in the Nov. 27 107-104 loss for the Bulls at home at the United Center to the Heat. White had his second-lowest game score of the season, at -2.3, with just four points on eight field-goal attempts off the bench.
Are there solutions for the Chicago Bulls to deal with the inconsistent production from Coby White?
Along with his four points, White registered six rebounds, two assists, no steals, one block, and a team-high five turnovers. And he shot just 2-of-8 from the field and 0-of-5 from beyond the arc.
All in all, this is a problematic emerging trend in White’s game of late. I do personally believe he will continue to smooth out his production in the weeks ahead as he still shakes off the rust since he made his season debut. But how long will the Bulls be fine with letting White take between eight and a dozen field goal attempts while he gets back in the right mindset and shape to find his game?
White’s inconsistencies in terms of offensive production are going to make it difficult for second-year head coach Billy Donovan to put together the right rotations for the Bulls to find success in the win column. Whenever it seems like White is starting to get his groove back, he comes out flat in the next game.
It wasn’t just in this set of back-to-back games against the Magic and Heat that this trend was evident. It was present when White had his first real breakthrough game of the season, in a home win over the New York Knicks on Nov. 21.
In that 109-103 home win over the Knicks last weekend, White registered 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. His second-half scoring spark helped the Bulls to get that important win over the Knicks. That game also saw White post his second-best game score of the season to date.
But yet again, White came out with a flat performance in the Bulls’ following game. After the Bulls beat the Knicks on Nov. 21, they took on the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 22. That tragic 32-point loss to the Pacers saw White register one of his lowest game scores of the season. He registered just four points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field and 0-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc.
So what are the Bulls to do about White’s inconsistent scoring as he works his way back firmly into the rotation after shoulder surgery last spring?
The first thing to obviously realize is that the Bulls probably won’t ever get consistent scoring production from White. He’s a microwave scorer that was always inconsistent. White can heat up at any time, and completely change a game because of it. But he can also have off nights where he misses a half-dozen shots in a row in what seems like the blink of an eye.
But this season is showing more inconsistent offensive production than usual for White.
There is one interesting trend in White’s game this season that can help Donovan mitigate any further damage that he can do to the team’s offensive efficiency in key games. In the three games where White registered his best game scores of the season so far, he hit his first field goal attempt off the bench.
Meanwhile, in the three games with White’s lowest game scores on the season so far, he’s missed his first field-goal attempt in each. There are early indications of how White will do offensively game in and game out. If he’s looking out of sorts and misses his first field goal attempt, maybe Donovan gives those minutes to someone else like Ayo Dosunmu or Alex Caruso.
That is at least until White starts to look more like himself on the offensive end of the floor as time moves along this season.
Moreover, there are still some additional indicators that White is working through some of these hurdles to improve as a whole as time moves along.
According to Cleaning the Glass, White’s five and 10-game rolling averages for effective field goal percentage and game score are steadily improving since he made his season debut roughly two weeks ago against the Lakers. But it is definitely a roller coaster ride for this Bulls’ team while White tries to get some semblance of his offensive game back.
Following the loss to the Heat for the Bulls at home on the night of Nov. 27, Chicago currently sits with a record of 13-8 on the season. Next up for Coby and the Bulls is a meeting with the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 29.