Is trading Coby White in the Chicago Bulls’ best interest?

Coby White, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Coby White, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

When he was selected 7th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, the thought that Coby White‘s stay in the Windy City would be but a brief one never crossed most fans’ minds. But as the Chicago Bulls ramp up their effort to contend for a championship, Coby is now being considered by many to be a disposable asset in the trade market.

Both ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer have recently reported that the Bulls are interested in packaging the 18th pick with White to potentially secure a more desirable draft position.

Coby joins Zach LaVine as the last remnants of decisions made by former dubious managerial duo Gar Forman and John Paxson, so it’s easy to see why Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley may not feel quite as attached to the young guard. That was made apparent this past season, as the Bulls made it clear that White is the 5th guard and odd man out of the rotation.

When Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine were sidelined with injuries or COVID-19 concerns, Ayo Dosunmu and Alex Caruso were the first to get the call up to the starting lineup, not Coby. With the hierarchy in Chicago clearly established, many are starting to believe White’s presence has now been made redundant.

Although the Bulls had high hopes for the sharpshooting guard, Coby White may soon be on the move elsewhere this summer.

This issue has certainly been expedited due to Coby White’s impending free agency. After the 2022-23 season, the Bulls will be in a position where core members of the roster will be due contract extensions, including Nikola Vucevic, Dosunmu, JaVonte Green, and White himself.

Considering the massive amount of money already committed to LaVine (assuming he re-signs), Ball, and DeMar DeRozan, Chicago will have to make some tough decisions regarding the future of these four players. With Ayo on the rise, it’s tough to envision a scenario where the Bulls retain Coby without significantly neglecting other areas of the roster.

White also failed to make a strong case for himself in his first playoff appearance against the Milwaukee Bucks, where he averaged just 8.4 points per game and shot a miserable 15-for-45 from the field. Given his deficiencies as a defender and playmaker, it’s hard to justify playing Coby in critical moments if his shot isn’t falling, much less granting him a hefty contract.

For these reasons, I think the Bulls would be much better off trying to find a new home for Coby White this summer.

The counterpoint here among critics of a potential Coby trade tends to be something along the lines of, “If his value is so low, what’s the point in trading him anyways?” This is a fair point, but one I believe can be easily dismissed. While Coby may have struggled in his role with the Bulls, the disparity in his stats as a starter and bench player seems to indicate he could thrive in a new setting.

Coby White as a starter in 2021-22
34.8 MPG, 16.5 PTS, 4.1 REB, 4.3 AST, 1.2 TOV, 43.4 FG%, 43.7 3P%

Coby White as a bench player in 2021-22
24.6 MPG, 11.2 PTS, 2.6 REB, 2.3 AST, 1.1 TOV, 43.3 FG%, 35.9 3P%

This would likely be the Bulls’ main selling point in any potential Coby White trade package. When he was given a larger role, he was much more capable of finding his rhythm as a shooter. White was also a much more capable playmaker when he had superior talent around him, instead of forcing his shot off the bench.

Unfortunately, there’s no way Coby will be able to carve out the large role he needs to succeed when he’s buried behind four other guards. His trade value may be lower than his real value right now, but if he spends another season in Chicago he will almost only continue to depreciate as an asset.

Just like Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen before him, there’s definitely a spot for Coby in the NBA. Just because he couldn’t be what the Bulls needed doesn’t mean he can’t still be a good piece for someone else.  But if the Bulls don’t trade him now, they’ll likely lose a talented young guard on a cheap contract for nothing. It should go without saying that this would be an egregious error; Coby White can still help the Bulls contend for a championship, even if he himself is no longer on the roster.

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