NBC Sports Chicago will preview a different Bulls player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp in late September.
How last year went
Last year went better than White ever could have expected. He was named North Carolina’s starter, appeared in 35 games and became a top-10 draft pick in the process. White was a raw five-star prospect who admitted he didn’t believe he’d be a one-and-done prospect. But a strong campaign with the Tar Heels – combined with a weaker draft class – helped him make the decision. His stock rose throughout the process, and many had him pegged going No. 6 to Phoenix.
Ultimately the Bulls stayed at No. 7 and had White fall into their laps, giving them who they hope to be the point guard of the future.
Expectations for this year’s role
The Bulls don’t need White to be the instant contributor Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen were as rookies. They love White’s game, but they’ll also love it in 2022 and 2023. There’s a reason that, even after using the seventh pick on White, they signed Tomas Satoransky on Day 2 of free agency, gave Ryan Arcidiacono $9 million and held on (for now) to Kris Dunn.
White has a steep, steep learning curve ahead of him. He doesn’t need to be a true point guard to succeed, but he still needs to have point guard traits. At 19 years old and just 35 games of collegiate experience at the position under his belt, he has a long way to go.
He’s behind Satoransky and Dunn on the depth chart right now. He’s probably even with Arcidiacono, a Boylen favorite. Expectations should be tempered. If the Bulls suffer another tanking season, White could log serious minutes in March and April. But the key here is they don’t need him to. If Dunn is moved at some point, White would have the opportunity to man the second unit or playing alongside Arcidiacono off the ball. This is house money for the Bulls. Whatever White can contribute, that’s great. If not, they’re deep at the position to make up for the redshirt year.
Where he excels
Speed kills, and White has plenty of it. It’s a shame White didn’t participate in any of the combine drills, because he would have come close to breaking records. He’s that fast. And that’s great news for a Bulls offense that crawled under Jim Boylen. A dedication to running off misses and shooting more 3-pointers makes White a perfect fit for this “new” Bulls offense.
He’s also the first Bulls point guard with legitimate 3-point range since Nate Robinson. Get your Summer League jokes out now – he went 3 of 30 in five Vegas games – but White can shoot it. He shot 35.3% from beyond the arc at North Carolina, including an eight-game stretch late in the season in which he shot 37.5% on 8.0 triple attempts per game. He’s comfortable shooting off the dribble and is elite off the catch-and-shoot, which could come in handy if and when he sees minutes with ball-dominant Zach LaVine.
Where he needs work
Fast doesn’t always mean good. Yes, White turned some heads with his transition moves. But the numbers tell a different story. He ranked in just the 41st percentile nationally in points per possession in transition, and his 19.1% turnover rate was much higher than it should have been on those possessions.
And that’s sort of the crux with White. He’s 19 years old and has played point guard for one year. He was a scoring shooting guard all the way up through high school and is just now learning to play with the ball in his hands. He had just a 24.2% assist rate and, despite North Carolina playing one of the fastest offenses in the country, averaged just 4.1 assists. He struggles in pick-and-roll action simply because he hasn’t done it often (he rarely did it with the Tar Heels, and he was a mixed bag in Las Vegas).
As much as White will need to improve in transition, the bigger key will be learning when to play fast and when to play slow. He admitted that when speaking with reporters after draft day.
Point guard in the NBA is a steep learning curve. White will have his work cut out for him to make an impact as a rookie because of it, but the Bulls didn’t draft White with 2019-20 in mind.
Best case/worst case
In a best-case scenario, White learns quickly and uses instinct to become a scoring lead guard on the Bulls’ second unit. The Bulls’ reserves were one of the worst groups a year ago, so having a scoring punch like White would go a long way. The Bulls could deploy White to change the pace of the game, score a few quick buckets and give defenses a different look from what they’d see with Dunn or Arcidiacono.
Worst-case is White uses his rookie season as a redshirt. Again, that’s not an issue long-term but it’d be tough for a 22-win team from a year ago to get next-to-nothing out of its top-10 pick.
One key stat
There’s really no way to spin White’s ugly outside shooting numbers during the Las Vegas Summer League. But let's try. His 3 of 30 shooting was bad, and even worse when considering he hit back-to-back triples in about a 25-second span in one of his five games.
Obviously no one is cooling on White after five Summer League games that routinely lack structure and efficiency. He’s a good shooter, and 35 games in Raleigh proved as much. But we can take it a step further and show that high draft picks – specifically point guards – struggle with their outside shots in Vegas.https://twitter.com/markstrot/status/1150771881152323585
Whether it’s the new ball, the added range, learning to play faster with better athletes on the floor, there’s real correlation between young point guards and missing their triples. Would it have been nice if White shot better in Sin City? Sure. Does it matter? Not in the least.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.