Despite poor shooting, Coby White has shown encouraging signs through 10 games

Despite poor shooting, Coby White has shown encouraging signs through 10 games

The worst enemy of data analysis is a small sample size, so forgive us for being a bit excited that we have arrived at the point of the season where most teams have played at least 10 games. While this still represents a small sample in the grand scheme of things, 10 games gives us enough to work with to paint an accurate picture of how a player is performing.

Bulls 2019 No. 7 overall draft pick Coby White has had some thrilling ups and truly frustrating downs over the first 10 games, which begs the question, how has White's performance been compared to expectations?

The first thing that screams 'Coby White is performing way below expectations' is his ice-cold shooting. This generally should improve, especially because of the Bulls coaching staff making sure most of the rooks' shots fit his strengths and the general goals of the offense, but again, things could always be better. 

Below is a shot chart showing makes and misses from 426 of the 444 field goal attempts from White's NCAA career, per The Stepien

As shown in the above chart, in his lone year at North Carolina, White primarily generated his offense through shots at the rim and 3-pointers.

White specifically feasted on shots from above the break and on the left wing. The white dotted line on the above shot chart represents NBA 3-point range and you can see that the majority of White's 3-point attempts were from NBA range, backing up the idea that he has never been a reluctant shooter.

While White is shooting poorly overall from 3-point range, the coaching staff is clearly letting him play to his strengths, as he is taking 4.5 above the break 3-point attempts per game, his favorite shot at North Carolina (above the break 3s accounted for 38% of White FGAs in college). Above the break 3-pointers make up a large share of the Bulls offense and White is shooting a woeful 24.5% on them. He shot 34.5% on above the break 3-pointers at the NCAA level, with many of those being a high degree of difficulty shot, the same type he is taking with the Bulls.

If the coaching staff adjusts, perhaps taking the ball out of his hands a bit and spotting him up more in the left corner (as he shot 43.7% on left wing 3s in college)—and in the corners in general—then we should expect to see a dramatic uptick in his shooting numbers. As it stands, we have seen White repeatedly miss shots that film tells us he definitely can make. 

For now, Bulls fans should be satisfied with the fact that the team's 2019 No. 7 overall pick is showing absolutely no fear.

White's lack of fear on the court is perhaps his biggest strength and weakness and needs to be factored in heavily into his (10-game) evaluation. He is second on the Bulls in usage rate at 24.5%, a full 2% ahead of Lauri Markkanen. This is not ideal. While White gets a bit of a pass since he is being asked to help prop up a bench unit woefully short on traditional scorers, he needs to focus on setting up his big men a bit more. This will ultimately make him tougher to guard and open up the possibility of easier shots, especially off the dribble.

Through his first 10 NBA games, White is shooting  21.2% from the 3-point line and 50% on restricted area field goal attempts (not great). Now based on the fact that he shot roughly 36% on NBA distance 3-pointers in college and 10% on 3-pointers during the NBA Las Vegas Summer League, it would appear White is struggling more with NBA defenders than NBA distances.

Ultimately White may need to take Boylen's advice for Lauri Markkanen and "start putting that baby on the floor and creating and going by people.”

As of this writing, White is a player who is showing little difference between his home/road splits, save for more aggressiveness on offense when in Chicago — 14.3 FGA per game at home vs 10.8 FGA per game on the road — and a dramatic difference in free throw percentage: 87.5% at the United Center, 60% on the road.

The Bulls have played 6 of their 10 games on the road to start the season, so it is possible White settles into a groove at the UC. But as of now, two of White's three best performances on the young season have come on the road. He is an extremely confident player, especially for a rookie, and ultimately the rigors of the NBA travel schedule don't seem to be getting to him yet

Shooting slumps are normal for any player, especially rookies, but they are a little bit different from the rookie wall, which has more to do with wear-and-tear and NBA scheduling.

We should see White's 3-point percentages trending up sooner than later, not to say that they will not regress once the aforementioned rookie wall hits. Even with those poor shooting percentages, he has played decent basketball through the first 10 games when stacked up on against the numbers of his rookie point guard peers.

White's passing is something that will come along slowly as he gains NBA experience but he has shown flashes over the first 10 contests.

White's 1.85 assist-to-turnover ratio is first among all rookies (who play at least 15.0 minutes per game), and he leads all rookie guards in secondary assists per game (0.6), a result of keeping the ball moving on the perimeter per his coaches' instructions. 

White's physicality has led to positive developments on the other side of the ball, specifically in both his defense and rebounding. As he said to NBC Sports Chicago previously, “Since I’ve been in high school, I liked contact."

At the time of this writing, the Bulls defense is 6.0 points worse with White off the floor, the most pleasant of surprises. His 12.3% defensive rebound rate is tops among Bulls guards through the first 10 and he has been one of the strongest transition players for Chicago, scoring 1.15 points per possession in transition on 2.7 transition possessions per game (3rd on the Bulls). 

Through the first 10 NBA games it's safe to say, Coby White hasn't hit the rookie wall just yet, rather he is overexerting himself trying to use his talents to lift a struggling offense.

Once the key players around White slowly (and ideally) start to increase their usage rates and offensive efficiency, we will see him look more like the player he was at North Carolina.

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More on the Bulls

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls lose to Warriors for 2nd time in 10 days


Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls lose to Warriors for 2nd time in 10 days

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 100-98 loss to the Warriors

0:45 - Reaction to loss and Bulls losing to Warriors again

2:30 - On 4th quarter struggles

3:30 - On Zach LaVine’s game-winning shot attempt

5:20 - Viewer comments on Coby White starting

9:20 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine leads to Matt rant

10:20 - Viewer comment on Wendell Carter

12:10 - Viewer comment on Sato needing to be more aggressive

13:30 - Viewer comment on Luke Kornet

16:35 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine talking trash to Warriors

18:00 - On LaVine not being the issue

19:00 - On Otto Porter’s injury and being out indefinitely

22:10 - Viewer comment on Bulls being contenders

23:50 - Viewer comment asking why Matt is always angry

24:50 - Viewer asking Sabine how he feels about the Bears beating the Cowboys

26:20 - Which team is more likely to make playoffs, Bears or Bulls?

 Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders


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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.

Lauri Markkanen inspires, then fades in emblematic loss to Warriors

USA Today

Lauri Markkanen inspires, then fades in emblematic loss to Warriors

When Lauri Markkanen is on, it's inspired. And he was 'on' in the first half of the Bulls' eventual 100-98 loss to the league-worst (entering the night) 4-19 Warriors. 

In fact, there were stretches when it appeared he just might save the Bulls from their second (second!) loss of the season to Golden State.

See: the opening five minutes of the second quarter. The Warriors, trailing 28-23 at the end of the first period, were on a 16-5 run. You could call it a spurt, but it felt more like an avalanche. The Bulls' bench had gone cold, Ky Bowman and Omari Spellman were raining hellfire and the United Center was despondent.

Then, Markkanen awoke. It all started on a pick-and-pop action between Markkanen and Denzel Valentine. With the Warriors flat-footed and scrambling to rotate, Markkanen reeled in a bounce-pass from Valentine at the top of the key and rifled a side-armed bullet to Daniel Gafford, awaiting free and clear in the paint. This is a delightful play, and a rare one for Markkanen this season:

Two straight 3-pointers (one on another pick-and-pop possession in concert with Zach LaVine) followed that, then a cutting dunk to knot the game 41-41. Markkanen finished the half leading the game in points (17), field goals made and attempted (shooting 7-for-11) and 3-pointers, on which he was 3-for-6. The Bulls were ahead 51-50. Too close for comfort, yes, (especially for this team) but in the moment, that Markkanen sequence felt like a true leadership moment. He was carrying the team.

Zach LaVine, after all, hadn't scored until the under two minutes until the half.

"I was getting good looks, my teammates were finding me, and I was getting to the rim," Markkanen said. "No matter how they were guarding me, we found something that worked for us."

Markkanen then proceeded to not score for over 25 minutes of game action, totaling three points in the second half on 1-for-6 shooting. After the game, Jim Boylen was unsure of what exactly changed for Markkanen of the second, but the taste in his mouth was evidently sour.

"I don't know. I mean, sometimes people adjust? They adjust to a guy who's got it going and they change. Sometimes the ball doesn't go in," Boylen said. "That's the game."

Boylen added that he liked the look Markkanen got on a 3-pointer late in the fourth that, at the time, tied the game 97-97. It was the only shot Markkanen made after the 4:48 mark of the second quarter.

"The team goes on spurts," Markkanen offered as explanation. "We go on little runs and they go on runs. That's how the game is, and I feel like we did a good job feeding the hot guy. When Zach got going in the second half, we did the same thing, so... I think that's part of it."

LaVine scored 21 of his 22 points in the game over a seven-minute stretch between the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third. For the third time this season (and second time in three games), LaVine and Markkanen each tallied 20 points. It rang hollow.

So did the team's end-of-fourth-quarter execution, an area they excelled in over the two-game win streak they rode into this one. LaVine, again, controlled the majority of the team's crunch-time possessions, but this time, the team fell short — mustering only 15 points in the final period.

"We could've executed, not turned the ball over," Markkanen said. "Simple plays. Obviously everybody's going to look at the last play, but it's not about that. We had some good looks before that that we gotta make the plays that we need to finish the game off."

Markkanen committed two turnovers and bricked a forced, late-shot clock jumper in the final two minutes. "I could have done a better job making the plays I needed," he conceded.

The Bulls go as LaVine and Markkanen do, and their stilted play tonight reflected the team's oft-polarizing offense. After two games of fresher air, Markkanen — 'back' for a half, a leader on the floor — ultimately took one step back.

"You know, that's part of the learning," Boylen said. "People adjust in the second half to what you did in the first, and you gotta adjust again."

What that adjustment will be remains to be seen.