Coby White is one month younger than Ayo Dosunmu.
Think about that for a second. And then think about it over the next few weeks as the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline approaches.
A popular sentiment among some in the Chicago Bulls’ fan base is to make White a trade piece in the hunt for a power forward. With the Bulls atop the Eastern Conference and potentially opening a championship contention window ahead of schedule, taking a big swing for a piece like the Pistons’ Jerami Grant or the Kings’ Harrison Barnes certainly would cost Patrick Williams and maybe White.
Trading him also could be a mistake.
“I think Coby is a winning player,” Billy Donovan said.
The Bulls’ coach said that after White scored 21 points with three assists on sizzling shooting — 7-for-8 overall and 4-for-4 from 3-point range — in a victory over the Wizards. It’s White’s third 20-point game in his last four. He is averaging 18.7 points and shooting 55 percent from 3 in his last six.
But White has gone on offensive heaters before. What’s standing out to Donovan is the third year guard’s recent ability to get downhill, attack closeouts and to spray out to open shooters. Then, there’s also his improved defensive commitment.
“He’s made the game easier for others,” Donovan said.
That’s high praise for a coach who always has cited White’s resilience, mental toughness and ability to respond to in-game failure.
“I think it’s dope,” White said, when relayed Donovan’s sentiment about being a winning player. “I think that’s everybody’s goal that’s playing a sport. Be a winning player. That’s all I want to be. I don’t want to be known as a loser. So to get his respect means a lot.”
It’s well-documented how much White has endured this season. He lost his starting point guard job when the Bulls acquired Lonzo Ball. He endured offseason shoulder surgery. As he tried to establish rhythm with multiple new teammates, he landed in the league’s health and safety protocols.
And now he’s thriving, one month shy of turning 22, adding so much to a Bulls team with its sights firmly set on a lengthy playoff run.
The age comparison to Dosunmu is important. The rookie is found money, contributing mightily during a season many expected would feature G League stints. He scored a career-high 18 points with five rebounds, four assists and three steals while shooting 7-for-9 against Washington.
With Alex Caruso sidelined first by a sprained foot and now in the protocols, Donovan even has been using White and Dosunmu together to great success. But a case could be made that Dosunmu is insurance should management trade White.
But White is still a developing player. And his bench scoring could be crucial come playoff time.
“Last year, he really wanted me to play off my shot more and get downhill. I really focused on that,” White said of Donovan. “And since last year ended, a big focus for me was defense. I feel I’m making strides in all areas. And I gotta continue to get better.”
With that mindset, it’s hard to doubt White. It’s almost certain that he will improve.
“I’m hoping he’s gaining some confidence in terms of his value for what he can do for our team,” Donovan said. “It’s an important role for us.”
How important? That’s a question management may have to weigh over the coming weeks.