Bulls

If the Bulls draft for need at No. 7, point guards Darius Garland and Coby White will be options

If the Bulls draft for need at No. 7, point guards Darius Garland and Coby White will be options

The dust has settled on a disappointing night at the NBA Draft Lottery in which the Bulls fell three spots to No. 7. Assuming they don’t move the pick, they’ll draft in the same slot for the third consecutive offseason, hoping lightning will strike a third time after they hit on Lauri Markkanen in 2017 and Wendell Carter Jr. in 2018.

Their situation this time around is a little different. Though they won just 22 games last season – in large part because of significant injuries to seven core players – the foundation is in place for the Bulls to be selective about who they draft.

In 2017, Markkanen was the best player available and the Bulls had added a shooting guard in Zach LaVine and a point guard in Kris Dunn in the Jimmy Butler deal. They opted for Carter in 2018, who was also seen as the top prospect on the board in what many considered a six-player draft (Ayton, Bagley, Doncic, Young, Jackson, Bamba). The Bulls had Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis when they took Markkanen, and Robin Lopez was coming off a career year in 2018 when they drafted Carter.

But the rebuild is beginning to take shape – as difficult as that may be to believe – and the Bulls have what they believe are foundation pieces at 2 (LaVine), 3 (Otto Porter), 4 (Markkanen) and 5 (Carter). Granted, the Bulls have one of the shallowest and worst benches in the NBA, so drafting a player at 7 who begins his career as a reserve wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Still, VP John Paxson addressed the point guard situation – as he did in April, saying the Bulls needed to get better at the position – and admitted the organization may not take the same approach in 2019 as they have in years’ past.

If that’s the case, there are two point guards who could be available when the Bulls go on the clock on June 20th in Brooklyn.

Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland enters draft season as one of the true enigmas in the class. A five-star prospect rated by ESPN as the 16th best prospect – ahead of Duke’s Tre Jones and North Carolina’s Coby White – Garland suffered a torn left meniscus in November and missed all but five games before declaring for the NBA Draft.

The injury won’t affect his draft stock and there’s nothing to suggest he’s injury-prone – something all Bulls fans want to know when asking about a point guard and his knees.

Garland is a point guard in name but can also play off the ball. He’s a terrific shooter both from beyond the arc and on pull-up jumpers. He’s a smart player in pick-and-roll action and attacks the basket well. He’s drawn comparisons from this author to Kemba Walker given the skill set listed above.

Zach LaVine had the ball in his hands plenty last season – more out of necessity than strategy – and if the Bulls choose to go that route again in 2020, Garland is capable of playing from the wing without the ball.

Like any young point guard, Garland will need to improve his decision making and work through an offense rather than trying to take over too much, especially at the pro level. His scorer’s mentality got him into trouble at times in his brief Vanderbilt career but he has all the makings of a point guard in today’s NBA. Consider the four point guards remaining in the NBA Playoffs – Curry, Lillard, Lowry and Bledsoe, all of whom averaged at least 1.6 triples per game in the regular season.

The issue with the Bulls picking seventh, of course, is that other teams are aware of the skill set Garland possesses. Just because he played five games doesn’t mean NBA scouts haven’t known about him for years. He’s not going to sneak up on any draft boards simply because he missed essentially his entire freshman season.

He’s the consensus No. 2 point guard in the class behind Ja Morant at this point in the pre-draft process. Assuming Zion Williamson, Morant and R.J. Barrett go 1-2-3, the Lakers at No. 4 and Suns at No. 6 could certainly be landing spots for Garland. The former may move on from Lonzo Ball in the offseason, while the latter has the NBA’s worst need for stability at the point and hasn’t drafted one in the first round since Tyler Ennis in 2014.

If Garland is off the board – for now that seems likely – and the Bulls stay at No. 7, they could shift their attention to North Carolina’s Coby White. He ran the point for the Tar Heels but at 6-foot-5 is more of a combo guard with a streaky outside shot and ability to run in transition.

North Carolina ran early and often, and White usually led that charge, but he committed turnovers on 19.1% of his transition possessions – compared to just 15% in halfcourt sets. White was an excellent jump shooter and finished well around the rim, averaging 1.286 points per possession on those attempts – for reference, Jamal Murray averaged 1.284 PPP around the rim during his freshman season at Kentucky.

The Bulls were among the slowest teams in basketball under Jim Boylen, but White would give them an opportunity to run. He’s got off-ball potential like Garland, too, giving the Bulls more options as an attacking offense. His pick-and-roll numbers left plenty to be desired – 0.756 points on 127 possessions, 52nd percentile – but at 18 years old he’s got room and time to improve.

There’s a good chance White isn’t technically the best prospect available when the Bulls go on the clock at No. 7. Guys like Jarrett Culver or De’Andre Hunter showed more in their freshman seasons and project as solid wing contributors. But again, this draft could be different for the Bulls. With four positions locked down, they could opt to go away from their past strategy and go grab a player at a position of need. Plus, the players in the 4-10 range are pretty clumped together at this stage. It wouldn’t be all that big of a reach, especially at No. 7 when the odds of finding a star are more limited.

Coby White is making history left and right in absurd three-game stretch

Coby White is making history left and right in absurd three-game stretch

Coby White is enjoying a special stretch of basketball right now. In each of the Bulls’ past two games entering Tuesday night’s matchup with the Thunder, White set and matched career-high scoring totals with consecutive 33 point-games — something no rookie reserve had ever done

But Chris Paul was determined to stop it.

“I told Coby he wasn’t going to score 33 tonight,” said Paul, who coached White at the AAU level and has forged a deep bond with him since

Mission accomplished… Sort of.

White poured in a new career-high of 35 points in a nail-biter of a 124-122 loss to Oklahoma City, shooting 13-for-21 from the field and 6-for-9 from 3-point range. At 20 years old and in his first NBA season, White has now logged three 30-point games in a row, all off the bench. Here are a few reasons that is statistically ridiculous:

  • White is the first reserve in Bulls franchise history to post three consecutive 30-point games (via Bulls Game Notes)

  • White is the first rookie to score 30 points in three consecutive games since starters were first recorded in 1970-71 (via ESPN Stats & Info)

  • He’s also the first rookie to achieve that feat while hitting five or more 3-pointers in each game since the 3-point shot was introduced in 1979-80 (via Elias Sports Bureau)

  • Zach LaVine and White became the second pair of Chicago teammates in franchise history to each score 30-plus points in consecutive games, joining Bob Love and Chet Walker, who did it in 1969 (via Elias Sports Bureau)

  • White is the first Bulls rookie to score 35 points in a game since Ben Gordon in 2005. Other Bulls rookies to score 35 points in a game: Michael Jordan (21 times) and Elton Brand (twice). Solid company (via Bulls Game Notes)

  • In his last three games, White is averaging 33.7 points per on 57.4/58.1/92.9 shooting splits (20.3 FGA/g, 10.3 3PA/g). 

  • In that stretch, the Bulls are scoring at a rate of 120.1 points per 100 possessions (with a +15.6 net rating) with White on the floor, and just 92.2 points per 100 (with a -41.8 net rating) with him off.

  • I don’t have any further historical context for those last two. They’re just absurd.

“That’s what he [does]. He shoots lights out,” Paul said. “I’m glad to see that he’s playing with that confidence, and this summer we’ll get in the gym and we’ll go to work.”

 

“He’s coming into his own, and I’ve said this from day one, he’s special. He can score the ball like no other,” Zach LaVine said. “He’s continuing to get better. He’s 20 years old, I think he’s starting to find his groove right now.”

LaVine and White combined for 76 of the Bulls’ 122 points against Oklahoma City, collectively keeping the team’s offensive afloat in a floundering first half, then vaulting them back into the game with an infernic third quarter. LaVine (with 19 points) and White (with nine) combined for 28 points on collective 12-for-17 shooting (4-for-6 from deep) in the third, a period the Bulls won 38-19.

“It’s been great, especially with both of us on the court,” LaVine said. “There was a couple times in the fourth — that third quarter, when we were down, I spent so much energy trying to get us back into it — and he held onto that lead for us. 

“But it’s been great, man. He’s been putting a lot of hard work in. I go into the gym late or I shoot after practice and he’s right there. He’s gonna be special.”

White played 33 minutes in the game and was a team-high +15. When he’s ‘on’ he makes the Bulls fun, interesting and electric. LaVine went on to sing gratitude for White’s ability to draw defensive attention away from him over the course of games, and shoulder on-ball responsibilities in spot moments.

Just don’t ask Jim Boylen if he’s ready to promote White to the starting lineup.

“I keep getting this question and I'm just going to answer it one more time,” Boylen said. “Coby’s in a good place. We’re going to keep him in a good place. Let’s let Coby keep playing and lets let him keep developing.”

Point taken. And the way things are going, perhaps that’s perfectly OK.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Coby White and Zach LaVine shine in loss to Thunder

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Coby White and Zach LaVine shine in loss to Thunder

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Watson react to the Bulls 124-122 loss and another great game from Coby White.

0:45 - Welcome back, John Sabine!

1:45 - On Coby White's career-high 35 points

4:25 - What Coby and Zach do for each other when on the floor together

6:00 -  On the Bulls overcoming a huge deficit

8:10 - On the Thunder and their surprising success this season

13:05 - Viewer comment on Outsiders seating arrangement

13:45 - Viewer comment on Coby going for the All-Rookie second team

15:50 - On playing Zach and Coby together and White not starting

19:45 - Viewer comment on getting Coby another nickname

20:25 - Viewer comment on expectations for when Otto Porter comes back

21:45 - On potential of Shaq Harrison starting over Ryan Arcidiacono

22:55 - Viewer comment on Outsiders shirts

23:40 - Viewer comment on Bulls needs at small forward

26:10 - On Coby blowing past the rookie wall

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

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.