Should the Bulls pay up and re-sign Coby White in free agency?

Coby White, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Coby White, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Joining four other current members of the roster as an impending free agent this summer, Coby White‘s future with the Chicago Bulls is certainly one of this team’s biggest question marks entering the summer. The decisions made now will undoubtedly affect the Bulls’ trajectory for years to come, but whether or not Coby should be a part of said future has many members of the fanbase divided.

Drafted seventh overall in 2019, Coby was brought on to hopefully address Chicago’s deficient backcourt. While he was an undeniably talented scoring threat, his streaky performances and inability to adapt to the point guard position left many in doubt that there was a future for him on this team.

Entering this season, things were definitely make-or-break for White. He’d have to truly impress if he was going to convince the front office to double-dip with heavy investments at shooting guard with Coby and starter Zach LaVine. Against all odds, I think it’s safe to say that Coby is actually… winning the fanbase over again?

With massive improvements to both his playmaking and defensive intensity, White has finally proven he’s more than just a microwave scoring threat off the bench, but rather an extremely talented role player that championship-caliber teams value highly. The Chicago Bulls may not be championship contenders just yet, but if they were, I have no doubt Coby would still be an integral part of this team’s rotation.

At the very least, he has managed to capture the attention of Chicago media and his own head coach, Billy Donovan.

Negotiations with Coby White may ultimately break the Chicago Bulls’ 2023 free agency efforts this summer.

Buried behind LaVine on the depth chart, there’s not much hope for White becoming the long-term starter for Chicago. Whether or not that will affect Coby’s decision-making remains to be seen, but I still believe White can fulfill a valuable role for the Bulls even if that means not being a member of the starting five.

The Bulls’ backcourt is presently quite crowded with LaVine, White, Alex Caruso, Patrick Beverley, and Ayo Dosunmu forming a formidable quintet. However, Beverley and Dosunmu are also both set to hit free agency, with the former set to turn 35 years old this summer while the latter has simply not played up to Coby’s level this season. There’s no reason why Chicago couldn’t continue prioritizing Coby as a key member of this rotation if they wish to keep him around.

However, players with Coby’s skills don’t come cheap. Here’s how free agent negotiations for a few players with relatively similar roles as White’s shook out last year:

  • Jalen Brunson – Four years, $110 million – $27.5 million AAV
  • Anfernee Simons – Four years, $100 million – $25 million AAV
  • Tyus Jones – Two years, $30 million – $15 million AAV
  • Malik Monk – Two years, $19 million – $9.5 million AAV
  • Gary Payton II – Three years, $28 million – $9.33 million AAV
  • Delon Wright – Two years, $16 million – $8 million AAV

Obviously, White isn’t near the level of Brunson’s current ability and Portland is banking on Simons making a Brunson-esque leap of his own, but White is also better than the bottom players on this list. I think White would look to get paid more than someone like Monk, but the Bulls front office is probably hoping to keep the price tag beneath Tyus Jones’ level, as he’s being compensated for providing for a genuine championship contender.

So let’s see we meet in the middle here somewhere, is it still worth it? With the NBA’s cap expected to spike in the future, I think any deal in the $10-$13 million AAV range would end up being a very good deal for the Bulls, provided Coby signs on for at least three years. The worst thing Chicago could do is handicap itself by overpaying, but I believe this would be a relatively easy contract to move on from even if White ends up regressing as a player.

Of course, another team could always come in and offer White a large sum, much like the Sacramento Kings did with Zach LaVine in 2018 when they offered him a seemingly exorbitant $80 million at the time. The Bulls decided to match the Kings’ offer then — thankfully, considering it ended up becoming one of the league’s best-value contracts — but it remains to be seen if Chicago would also be willing to offer up a hefty chunk of change for Coby.

Fortunately, White’s dip in statistical production this season may be enough to ward off any general managers ignorant of his actual in-game improvement. If the Chicago Bulls and Coby can agree to reasonable terms in this range, I see no reason why the front office wouldn’t be interested in a reunion with the former No. 7 pick.

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