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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Tom Thibodeau, Daryl Morey offer strong endorsements of Arturas Karnisovas

Tom Thibodeau, Daryl Morey offer strong endorsements of Arturas Karnisovas

The Bulls got their man, and their man is no slouch. Arturas Karnisovas, one of the more well-respected veteran executives in the NBA, is on the cusp of officially signing on to be the organization's new head of basketball operations.

The league-wide veneration for Karnivoas that has trickled out in the wake of his reported hiring is telling of his aptitude. As is the fact that, in the past four years, Karnisovas has advanced late into the interview processes for front office roles with both the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, been promoted from assistant general manager to general manager of the Nuggets in 2017, and rebuked the Philadelphia 76ers when they came calling for a new general manager in 2018.

Where does that respect come from? The good news for Bulls fans is the answer to that question is multi-pronged. Since the announcement of his hiring, multiple highly-regarded ex-co-workers of Karnisovas' have come out and made their endorsements known — all for fresh reasons.

Tom Thibodeau, for one, worked with Karnisovas when USA Basketball won the gold medal at the 2014 World Cup in Spain. The former Bulls’ coach joined NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan on his ESPN-AM 1000 radio show Thursday morning to discuss Karnisovas’ imminent hire to run basketball operations in Chicago.

“I think it’s a great hire for the Bulls. He’s hard working, has a lot of integrity, very pragmatic,” Thibodeau told Kaplan. “There are a lot of positive things in place there. I think he’ll add a lot to that.

“He has a great demeanor. He’s a very bright guy. I think he’ll be methodical in how he’ll analyze everything.”

Karnisovas’ connections with the international committee jump out in almost every conversation regarding the former Nuggets general manager. One of those relationships is with longtime Bulls international scout Ivica Dukan, who was instrumental along with Jerry Krause in drafting Toni Kukoc.

“As we all know, there’s a lot of talent internationally,” Thibodeau told Kaplan. “I know from my experience with Team USA, Arturas knew those players inside and out. International players were instrumental in Denver.”

Daryl Morey, the long-time general manager of the Houston Rockets and revered as a founding father of the modern front office in his own right, added his voice to that chorus in an appearance on the McNeil and Parkins Show on 670 The Score Thursday afternoon. Karnisovas got his break on the team side in Houston as an international scout, working under Morey from 2008-2012.

"Arturas is really, really great at his job," Morey told McNeil and Parkins. "He just rose through our ranks so fast, we unfortunately couldn’t keep him in Houston cause Denver had a big job for him, and now you guys have an even bigger job, and I think Bulls fans are going to be thrilled. He’s built a team from a non-contender to a contender in Denver and I think he’s got a very good chance to do that for you guys."

"He’s got a great basketball mind. He also has great judgement. And then on top of all that, he’s a great leader. So, he’s someone who, when I first got there, our international scouting was I thought a little bit behind other teams. He took it from where it was to I think one of the best in the league before he moved on to Denver."

Morey added to that endorsement descriptions of a thoughtful analyst, deft communicator and compelling salesman. All of those traits will be essential to Karnisovas as he looks to revamp the Bulls' front office and front-facing perception to players around the league. They stem from his path from decorated international player to highly-regarded executive, and should help in the recruiting process.

"I think he’s almost like the perfect combo you might want," Morey said on The Score of the weight Karnisovas puts on analytics versus his instincts as a former player. "That’s not his lead thing (analytics), but what I can tell you is what he will do — and what he did do for us — is he understands it, he knows who to hire, he knows when to use it, when not to use it. He’s very thoughtful about it. And I think over his time with us and then with Denver, who is also a very advanced team, very well run by Tim (Connelly) there. You know, he’s able to take that information, contextualize it and make great decisions with it, and that’s where you’ll see his strengths.

"He lives and breathes basketball, and I’m excited for you guys to get to know him better because he’s a great human being. He’s frankly a much better communicator and someone that people just want to be around (more) than myself, and I think that’s another real skill for him that will come to play in free agency. Players are gonna really want to work with him."

P.J. Carlesimo coached Karnisovas at Seton Hall before Karnisovas went back overseas to play professionally. He sang praises most high to Waddle & Silvy Thursday afternoon, also on ESPN-AM 1000.

"He will," Carlesimo told Waddle & Silvy when asked if Karnisovas could put the Bulls back on the map. "I think they've got somebody that understands how you build a team... He understands people maybe moreso than anything. People are going to love him when they meet him, when they hear him talk.

"I really think this is going to be a home run for the Bulls."

That should be music to Bulls' fans ears. Karnisovas' work is just getting started — and a modicum of patience should be afforded — but his track record and sterling reputation leave every indication that he's up to the task ahead.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Bulls make moves as they hire Arturas Karnisovas as new VP of basketball operations

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Bulls make moves as they hire Arturas Karnisovas as new VP of basketball operations

KC Johnson, Jason Goff, and Jamal Collier join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - Arturas Karnisovas is the Bulls' new Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. The guys react to the hire that has been lauded throughout the basketball world.

7:30 - The Bulls get criticized for not interviewing any African-American candidates. 

11:00- Will Jim Boylen still be the head coach when the season resumes?

13:30- How much closer are the Bulls to being contenders with this hire?

16:00- Denver sports columnist Paul Klee from the Gazette joins Kap. He talks about Karnisovas' background and discusses why he thinks the Bulls' new Executive VP will be a big success in Chicago.

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

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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