Bulls

What does a successful rookie year look like for Bulls guard Coby White?

What does a successful rookie year look like for Bulls guard Coby White?

Coby White is a 19-year old entering his first season with the Bulls and while his No. 7 overall draft position certainly indicates that he is a player that the organization believes in, his age would signal that fans should be patient with him. Point guard is a position that has perhaps the steepest learning curve in the NBA and on top of that, White will be playing on a roster that despite some solid pickups, is still light on veteran talent.

So what would a solid year look like for Coby White? There is no clear cut answer, as we’ve seen with players like De’Aaron Fox, a huge year 1 to year 2 leap is possible at point guard. To set the barometer for a solid rookie year for a score-first guard like White, we looked at how many guards in Bulls history cracked the double-digit scoring mark in their rookie season.

Rookie guards in Bulls franchise history who have averaged at least 10 PPG (NAME/ SEASON/ PPG)

1. Reggie Theus/ 1978-79/ 16.3 PPG

2. Quintin Dailey/ 1978-79/ 15.1 PPG

3. Mitchell Wiggins/ 1982-83/ 12.4 PPG

4. Michael Jordan/ 1984-85/ 28.2 PPG

5. Kirk Hinrich/ 2003-04/ 12.0 PPG 

6. Ben Gordon/ 2004-05/ 15.1 PPG

7. Derrick Rose/ 2008-09/ 16.8 PPG

White carried over his high-scoring ways from high school to Chapel Hill and helped lead an offense that had the 8th best adjusted offensive efficiency in the nation last season per KenPom.com. In college White’s speed was able to offset whatever advatange long-limbed shot-blockers had on him and he converted at a solid 67 percent rate at the rim.

Over his 999 minutes of NCAA basketball White racked up 562 points, including 104 made free throws and 67 made field goals at the rim (per The Stepien). He will have to add some diversity to his shot profile even if the Bulls truly let him have free reign to shoot in year one, as NBA rim protectors will force him to develop a solid floater and/or midrange game. 

White only attempted a total of 95 midrange shots (out of approx. 426 total shots) in his freshman season at North Carolina and will undoubtedly have to shoot more midrange attempts in 2020 as pro defenses will key in on his aggressiveness from deep.

In college White shot a whopping 12.2 attempts from 3-point range per 100 possessions, hitting them at a 35.3 percent clip and helping him maintain an impressive 110.6 offensive rating at UNC. At the NBA level, White will likely be operating out of the pick and roll a decent amount and even if the Bulls initiate these plays far from the rim, defenses will try to contain him in that area from the foul line to the rim, as the Sixers do to former Nets guard D’Angelo Russell in the clip below.

The sophistication of NBA defenses could have a negative effect on White’s percentages but everything will work itself out as long he doesn’t lose his aggressiveness.

Russell got up a career-high 635 attempts from 3-point range in 2019 but was aided by the Nets infrastructure. He shot a career-high 205 free throws in 2019, improving significantly in his weakest area offensively, something we will see White get better at on a year-to-year basis. 

Last season Brooklyn still catered to Russell’s strengths despite him getting to the free-throw line more. The Nets had the fifth-best 3-point attempt rate in the league. White will actually have the luxury of Nets assistant coach Chris Fleming joining in the Bulls staff, and Fleming played a large part in Brooklyn playing at one of the league's fastest paces and finishing in the top half of the league in points per game. 

In his five NBA Summer League contests, White averaged a healthy 4.4 free throw attempts per game. If he could average at least four free throws per game as a rookie, he would be one of four Bulls rookies at any position to get to the charity stripe that much. He will have plenty of opportunities to attack off of closeouts in year one but embracing contact is something that doesn’t come until much later for most young guards in the NBA.

While White will benefit heavily from Chicago’s plethora of 3-point shooters in 2020, he will more oftentimes than not play the role of the shooter, playing off the ball next to Zach LaVine and/or Satoransky. But Bulls head coach Jim Boylen has discussed the team speeding up their tempo with so many explosive athletes on the roster and White is a major reason why. 

Boylen’s words certainly indicate a player who will be more than a role player next season.

The Bulls finished the 2018-19 season ranked 19th in the league in pace and even with a modest increase, expect to see no more than 12 or so players with 200+ field goal attempts. The big difference is, those shot attempts will be spread out among NBA talent rather than a variety of G League call-ups, as was the case last year. 

The talent level of the teammates around White will set him up for a successful rookie year, it is simply on him to run with the opportunity. 

Only 10 rookies averaged at least 10 points per game in the 2018-19 season, including Bulls rookie Wendell Carter (10.3 PPG). Carter was usually the third or fourth scoring option for the Bulls in 2019 but was able to stay involved enough to put up decent figures. The Bulls will clearly want White to be aggressive on offense to grow into the point guard of the future so he will have to take his bumps and bruises along the way, which already started in the NBA Summer League.

In Summer League White shot a dreadful 3-for-30 (10 percent) on 3-pointers but mostly looked comfortable taking the attempts despite a lackluster percentage. Summer League is our best prism with which to judge what the Bulls will want from White and he led the team with 15.0 PPG in 30.8 minutes per game, clearly functioning as the lead dog of the Bulls offensive attack. 

Kris Dunn’s presence on the team definitely complicates things a bit but the Bulls are set up for White to score at a solid rate from day one. I believe that he will become the 8th Bulls rookie guard to put up at least 10 PPG and the main reason for that belief is that I fully expect White to hoist at least five attempts per game from 3-point range and of the three rookies to take at least five 3-pointers per game in 2019, two of them scored at least 10 PPG. 

We will get to see White play against a higher caliber of competition--both athletically and basketball IQ-wise--when the NBA preseason kicks off on October 7, until then we can only hope that Boylen will truly let the Bulls run with Coby White and his PPG average will be a decent way--not the only way--to follow his progress. 

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Bulls player preview: Cristiano Felicio gives center depth

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USA TODAY

Bulls player preview: Cristiano Felicio gives center depth

NBC Sports Chicago will preview a different Bulls player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp in late September.

Previous reviews: Lauri Markkanen | Ryan Arcidiacono | Antonio Blakeney | Coby White | Daniel Gafford | Wendell Carter Jr. | Luke Kornet

How last year went

There might have been a path to significant minutes for Cristiano Felicio, but the Bulls wound up drafting Wendell Carter with the seventh pick and keeping Robin Lopez through the duration of his contract. Felicio saw an uptick in minutes after Carter suffered a season-ending thumb injury in January, but he didn’t do much with it.

His best stretch came over the final 11 games of the season when Felicio averaged a modest 7.0 points on 51.7% shooting, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 21.9 minutes. He’s still a liability defensively, doesn’t have great hands, and 89 of his 95 made field goals were inside 10 feet.

Expectations for this year's role

Something has gone very wrong if Felicio logs any minutes this season. The Bulls quietly overhauled the position, departing with Lopez, drafting Daniel Gafford in the second round and signing Luke Kornet. It’s suddenly one of the Bulls’ deepest positions – with Wendell Carter Jr. in line for 30+ minutes a night – meaning Felicio is fourth on the depth chart with no real ability to contribute at power forward.

Where he excels

Felicio doesn’t have the surest of hands, but he has always looked comfortable rolling to the rim. It began with lobs from Dwyane Wade and has continued the last two seasons with guards like Ryan Arcidiacono finding him around the rim. Last year Felicio averaged 1.10 points per possession on pick-and-roll possessions, third on the Bulls behind Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. He also scored on 56.5% of those possessions (made field goal or free throws), which edged out Carter for the team lead. Of course, he was limited in not having a perimeter shot to pop out for 3-pointers, but he was a surprisingly nice roll man in his limited minutes.

Where he needs work

Felicio had a Defensive RPM of -1.63 last season, which was the second-worst mark among centers (only Willy Hernangomez was worse). The Bulls were 2.4 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Felicio off the floor, and the Brazilian big had just 11 steals and seven blocks in 746 minutes. It’s not a stretch to say he’s the team’s worst defender. It’s tough to see him improving in that area after four seasons.

Best case/worst case

In a best-case scenario, Felicio shows an improvement on the defensive end and finds some early-season chemistry with Kris Dunn on pick-and-roll action. He’ll be given a chance to compete with Gafford and Kornet for the backup center position. In a worst-case scenario, his deficiencies plague him and he continues to be an $8 million benchwarmer. Most likely, the Bulls continue counting down the days until his salary is off the books.

One key stat

Cristiano Felicio had 7 blocks in 746 minutes last season. How rare is that for a 6-foot-10 player? He’s the only NBA player the last two seasons that tall (or taller) to block seven or fewer shots in at least 740 minutes. The last player to do it was Joffrey Lauvergne in 2017, who blocked just six shots in 980 minutes (he incredibly blocked zero shots for the Bulls in 241 minutes; if you thought the OKC trade couldn’t get worse, you were wrong).

Report: Bulls to add Justin Simon on Exhibit 10 contract

Report: Bulls to add Justin Simon on Exhibit 10 contract

According to reports, the Bulls have signed former St. John's guard Justin Simon to an Exhibit 10 contract.

Simon played three seasons of NCAA basketball, one year with Arizona and two years at St. John's under the tutelage of NBA Hall of Famer Chris Mullin.

The Exhibit 10 contract is a fairly new situation, allowed by the NBA's last Collective Bargaining Agreement. What it means is that a player under this type of contract will get the league's minimum salary on a non-guaranteed deal that can include bonuses up to $50,000. 

The deal will allow Simon to participate in training camp with the Bulls with the goal of making the roster. The most likely scenario in these situations—i.e. when a player does not make the NBA roster— is that the player is waived before the season starts and assigned to that team's NBA G League affiliate.

So in layman's terms, Bulls fans should expect to see Simon in Hoffman Estates with the Windy City Bulls for the 2019-20 season, that is, as long as he doesn't choose to play overseas or elsewhere. With an Exhibit 10 contract, there are two ways a player can guarantee the full amount of their bonus money: spending at least 60 days on the G League affiliate team or getting their Exhibit 10 deal converted into a Two-Way contract (G League+ NBA deal combined, paid based on what league you are playing in at the time).

Simon is an intriguing add for the Bulls. Currently, the Chicago roster doesn't contain any guards shorter than 6-foot-3, and at 6-foot-5 with a massive 6-foot-11 wingspan, Simon certainly fits the mold.

Simon was the 2018-19 Big East Defensive Player of the Year, finishing in the top 10 in the Big East in both blocks and steals. In his junior year, he was also solid offensively, scoring 10.4 points per game while racking up 104 total assists over 34 games.

We all know how Jim Boylen loves players with the "dog" mentality and Simon's aggressive defense surely caught the eye of Boylen and the Bulls front office. 

In the 2019-20 NBA Summer League, Simon played for the Bulls, averaging 6.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. Unfortunately, Simon did not make a single 3-point shot over his NBA Summer League stint with the Bulls but he has shown the ability to hit the 3-point shot at times at the NCAA level. For his college career, he was a 35.1 percent 3-point shooter but those figures were helped by his sophomore season in which he hit 15 of his 36 shots from deep (41.7 percent).

Simon is not likely to shoot it well from the outside right away at the professional level but this is an important thing to monitor as his jump shot—as with most highly-skilled defensive players—will be the swing skill that will impact his ability to potentially make the NBA roster. 

The Bulls reportedly start training camp on October 1 and fans will likely get their first chance to see Simon in action at the first preseason game vs. the Milwaukee Bucks on October 7 on NBC Sports Chicago.

 

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