Chicago Bulls: What’s going on with Coby White?

Coby White, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Coby White, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

The final full month of regular season play left the Chicago Bulls with more questions than answers, with the biggest conundrum coming off the bench.

The Chicago Bulls have just four games left before the playoffs begin. They currently sit at fifth in the Eastern Conference standings and are three games behind the Philadelphia 76ers — the team they’d be playing in the first round if the season were to end today. But that isn’t set in stone.

The Sixers are tied with the No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks and are half-game behind the No. 2 Boston Celtics. They’re also 2.5 games behind the Miami Heat for first place. The Bulls don’t know who they’re getting in the first round.

In a normal situation, good teams have a preference but generally are at ease with whoever they play because they know what they’re going to get out of their own guys when the lights get bright. That’s not the case for Chicago, either, however. Alex Caruso’s now dealing with a back injury, Zach LaVine’s knee is hampering his explosiveness, and Coby White has regressed to a caricature of every draft knock on his game.

The latter is the most troubling of the Bulls’ current uncertainty, because it’s one that should be controllable. Team’s can’t control injuries, so being able to rely on the next man up is the difference between good teams and champions. As a lottery pick, White was expected to be an elite role player at the very minimum.

That hasn’t been the case during his time with the Bulls — at least consistently. He has shown flashes of being a top-notch role player, averaging double digits in his sophomore season and shooting 52% on catch-and-shoot opportunities.

His production has slowly gone down since the beginning of the calendar year, with his usage rating going from 22% to 18%. The lower his usage rating, the worse his shooting became in the stretch, and it’s hit a rock bottom in the last 10 games. Over that span, he’s averaging eight points on 23.5% shooting from three.

What’s going on with Bulls guard and former North Carolina Tar Heel star Coby White?

The tip of the iceberg for Bulls fans came in the team’s recent blowout loss to the Miami Heat. The Heat doubled DeMar DeRozan the entire game, with White’s man being the one to leave for the double. Somehow, he was still 0-for-7 from 3-point range (and 0-for-8 overall) in that game.

So what should the Bulls do moving forward?

Caruso’s back spasms will likely limit his play in the final four games and possibly into the playoffs. Ayo Dosunmu has witnessed a similar regression, which is something expected of a rookie. Javonte Green and Patrick Williams aren’t exactly 3-point sharpshooters. The way Lonzo Ball’s timeline is turning out, Chicago shouldn’t hold their breath for his return.

That leaves solving the White puzzle as their best option. As of now, Donovan is trying to piece it together by focusing on White’s overall contributions to the team. He knows that White can offer more to the team than just shooting, and wants him to stop letting his slump affect his overall game.

"“If he’s not making shots, there are other things in his game that he can do,” Donovan said. “He can get into the teeth of the defense. He can pass. He can make some plays. He can get downhill. There’s more to Coby than him just making the three-point shot.”"

As for White, he feels the same:

"“I haven’t been shooting the ball well from three,” White said. “The bad thing would be if I stopped shooting, if I stopped taking the open shot. My teammates tell me to keep shooting. I cannot change it. I put in a lot of time and effort to this game. I believe in myself and have confidence, regardless of what other people say or think. I know my team loved those shots for me, so I’m going to keep shooting.”"

Whatever the solution is, White and the Bulls need to find it as soon as they can. The final four games of the season will determine their playoff seeding as well as any momentum they bring into in their first playoff series. With Caruso being limited or possibly withheld in those games, White’s contribution will be key for Chicago moving forward.

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