By using their 15th and final roster spot to sign Goran Dragic on Sunday night, the Chicago Bulls have sent a clear and direct message to their crowded backcourt: rise to the challenge and earn your minutes, or you’ll be replaced by someone who can.
This should be particularly concerning for the former North Carolina product and No. 7 overall pick Coby White, as he’s set to enter the fourth and final year of his rookie-scale contract.
Already struggling to maintain his role in the rotation due to the emergence of Ayo Dosunmu, Coby faces yet another roadblock here. Starting 54 games in 2020-21, White would only get the call to start in 17 games in 2021-22 despite injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak that sidelined the main roster helping to temporarily bump him up the depth chart. He also had his minutes and shot attempts per game similarly slashed, being forced to accept a smaller role in order to put the Bulls in the best position possible to start winning games.
Now, with Dragic joining the fray, the future looks more uncertain than ever for Coby’s time in Chicago.
By adding yet another guard to an already logjammed rotation, the Chicago Bulls seem to be signaling a departure from Coby White in the near future.
Now, I’m not insinuating Coby will be traded before the offseason concludes. I’m not even guaranteeing he’ll be moved at all, given the fact the front office can’t seem to find appropriate value in return for the guard in trade talks. That being said, I certainly would not be surprised to see White on the move if the Bulls are able to find a worthwhile trade partner.
Between LaVine, Ball, Caruso, Dosunmu, White, Dragic, and the new rookie Dalen Terry, the Bulls possess a wealth of talent in the backcourt. While that’s a good problem to have, this roster imbalance becomes a glaring issue when you account for the fact that the Bulls only have one player in the 6’7″ to 6’9″ height range that can naturally hold down the power forward spot. Patrick Williams is going to need some help on the low block, especially when Chicago’s starting center also isn’t known for being a phenomenal paint protector.
The most obvious way to address this issue would be to trade White away, as he’s the only player the Bulls can afford to lose that would still net a decent player in return.
If Coby still had a few years left on his rookie deal, I imagine the front office would be willing to have patience and see how he pans out. But he’s had three years to get up to speed now; White still appears to have made no major developments to his game and is largely the same exact player he was when he came into the league.
That doesn’t mean he’s a bad player though. Coby fills a role that a lot of teams would be interested in having come off the bench, it’s just that he hasn’t lived up to his expectations in Chicago as a No. 7 overall pick. Much like Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter before him, I think Coby is still more than capable of carving out a role with a new team. Now, it’s just a matter of getting another team to also believe in him.
If the Bulls do manage to swing a trade that nets a quality power forward, I think people will look back and reflect on this offseason in a much more positive light. Chicago has taken many precautions to address the roster’s lack of depth this summer, and if signing Dragic means Coby will be used as trade bait to help the Bulls continue to improve, that’s fine by me.