Bulls rising star Coby White deserves Most Improved Player Award

Among the players in the pool for the Most Improved Player award this season, Coby White's play is elevating this Bulls team the most.
Chicago Bulls v Charlotte Hornets
Chicago Bulls v Charlotte Hornets / David Jensen/GettyImages

It might feel like a bit of an understatement at this point, but it bears repeating that Coby White is having an incredible year for the Chicago Bulls thus far. He's averaging 19.5 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in a career-high 36.3 minutes of play as a starter. He's shooting 45.7% from the floor and a blistering 39.5% from the three-point line.

This is a substantial improvement compared to last season where he averaged a career-low 9.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while playing 23 minutes off the bench and shooting 44% from the floor and 37% from the three-point line. His scoring and efficiency have improved greatly and have shed some light on an otherwise dark season for the Bulls.

The organization could have given up on the season with their bad start to the year. That's not the case for Coby White and the Bulls, as he's helping the team climb into the playoff picture despite injuries deterring their chances. He's finally putting it all together, taking this opportunity by the horns, and capitalizing on it.

Selected seventh overall out of the 2019 NBA Draft, he was seen as having the potential ceiling of Lou Williams, a multiple Sixth Man of the Year winner, to almost being the odd man out of the rotation last year. Throughout his short career, a plethora of Bulls guards have been in the way of Coby taking over at the point guard position.

After drafting Coby, he served as a scorer off the bench and was pigeonholed into a defined role. Then soon after, the Bulls chose a different direction and traded for Lonzo Ball and seemed to find their answer to running the offense at full potential. Lonzo then gets injured and it's been a revolving door with Patrick Beverly, Jevon Carter, and Goran Dragic to fill the position, as well as already having Coby White, Ayo Donsumu, and Alex Caruso soaking up minutes at the PG position.

Then the point guard position became unclear with multiple suitors trying to fill the void. Coby wasn't doing himself any favors as injuries and inconsistent defense were hampering Coby's chances at a bigger role. It's difficult to shine when the opportunity is stretched thin and shared by multiple players with different skills.

Coby White is defying the odds and saving the Bulls season, a Most Improved Player award-winning effort if there ever was one.

This year is different because the opportunity is wide open and White is flourishing with every minute he's earned. He's improved on defense, scores more efficiently, and is playmaking at a better rate to become the resolve the Bulls need. His growth has been instrumental in their pursuit of the play-in tournament and in keeping their chance at the postseason alive.

Since the signing of Lonzo Ball, it seemed to be a sign that this team was only going to offer Coby a bench role. This could've impacted his ceiling as a player and affected his view on his career, but he hasn't let the situation stop him. Being a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, plus not being an AKME pick, means high expectations of becoming a respectable combo guard who can score, while also being able to facilitate on offense. His peers from the draft were given the keys to their respective franchises and left to either sink or swim. The opportunity to shine on the Bulls just wasn't there and even through the adversity, Coby White glimmers with hope.

The Bulls signed him to a three-year deal on July 7th, 2023. The talent was there and they had to lock him up at a great value to help Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan going forward. They got themselves a certified steal because on average, Coby will earn $12 million per year. His value becomes even greater because he's helping the Bulls in their play-in tournament pursuit, especially after the season-ending LaVine surgery was announced.

Looking at the top three candidates for the betting odds of the MIP award, Tyrese Maxey, Coby White, and Alperen Sengun, the most deserving in my opinion is Coby. Maxey was selected to be an All-Star and has been effective as Joel Embiid's running mate since the departure of James Harden. It was expected for Tyrese to take over the role of the second-best player on his team. His rise to stardom was rapid and he's above the MIP honors.

Now it comes down to Alperen Sengun and Coby White for the MIP award. Coby White is helping a team missing some of their players with injuries and is currently sitting in the 9th seed. Alperen Sengun is the face of the Houston Rockets, but his team is the 12th seed in the Western Conference. He's averaging 21.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 5.1 assists this year, shooting 54 percent from the floor and 28% from the three-point line.

His rise to stardom is evident and once his team starts winning, he'll be considered for All-Stars and All-NBA teams going forward. He's already established himself and is so young that his development isn't finished yet. He's growing up to be a baby Nikola Jokic in all senses of the comparison. He's coming up next as one of the best young centers to play the game in recent memory. Following his trajectory, he's likely to skip this honors and produce as a top-five Center with the likes of Jokic and Embiid.

Coby had a decent start to his career establishing himself as a certified bucket, but has seen the ups and downs of what it takes to belong in the NBA. He's seen the dark days and he's found a new level to his game to shine brighter in his role. No matter the type of adversity, Coby has not shied away from the opportunity of getting better. He's growing in this role and still climbing the ranks to become more efficient as a scorer. He's showing why the hard work he put in should result in the Most Improved Player award.

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