One decision the Bulls will make before Thursday’s trade deadline is whether fourth-year guard Coby White still has a future in Chicago.
White is set to become a restricted free agent this summer after being unable to agree on an extension before the start of the season. If the franchise doesn’t see White as a long-term fit, this week is the time to find him a new home.
But the case for White in Chicago has grown more compelling since the two sides failed to reach an agreement in October. Back then, White appeared to be the odd man out of a crowded backcourt. In one summer two offseasons ago, the Bulls brought in Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu, all sliding White further down the depth chart. White’s 3-point shooting seemingly was the only thing keeping him hanging on in the rotation.
Ball’s season-long absence, along with others bouncing in and out of the lineup, left open opportunities White mostly has capitalized on this season. Now playing the most well-rounded ball of his career, White has left the Bulls with an interesting decision.
Do they stick with White for the remainder of the season and try to re-sign him this summer, hoping his improved play is the start of a breakout? Or do they conclude his time here is up and the franchise is better off getting another asset for him now?
The Bulls could slow-play it as they did with Lauri Markkanen’s restricted free agency two summers ago, possibly settling on a similar sign-and-trade scenario in the event this is the end of the line.
For his part, White feels his hitting his stride. Whether in Chicago or elsewhere by week’s end, White, who turns 23 on Feb. 16, is confident in the growth he’s displayed.
“I feel like I’m making a jump,” he said. “If you’re a numbers guy and look at the numbers, it might not show. But ballhandling, decision-making and on the defensive side, (and) offensively I think I’ve made a jump. We’re a really good team. The minutes might not be there every night. But when I do get them I just feel like I’ve got to take advantage of them and show them what I’ve been working on.”
White’s raw statistical averages are down to career lows due largely to the career-worst 21.3 minutes per game he’s received. His improvements have been more subtle, with tighter ballhandling being the most discernible.