A shortened rotation has been in play for the Bulls due to key rotational players still missing time, and that shortened rotation means rookie guard Coby White has been given more minutes, more freedom on the court, and more opportunities to succeed.
He has taken that opportunity and never looked back.
The Bulls hosted the Suns on Saturday and White played some of his best ball of the season, recording a career-high 33 points and tying a career-high seven three-pointers.
He looked poised and possessed playing both on and off the ball. He showed how lethal he can be in transition, while also getting a larger opportunity to play as a ball-dominant guard and as a primary shooter when required.
After that Suns game, there was a lot to take away from it. Coby had been exceptional in his own right, but it was certainly nothing to be blown away by considering he has done the same thing all season.
He would put together one absolutely crazy game then follow it up with several poor games, just like every other rookie guard. He would get really, really hot, then get really, really cold.
However, the Bulls played the Wizards the following night, and Coby again showed us exactly what he can do — excelling in transition, creating plays for himself with that nasty handle, and being a lethal shooter with a tendency to get hot at any time. Again, he ended with 33 points to tie the career-high he set the previous day.
Lauri Markkanen never did it. Wendell Carter Jr. never did it. Zach LaVine never did it. No rookie in the NBA had ever scored 33 or more in back-to-back nights. This is something truly remarkable and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
At this point, we all wonder, has Coby White turned the corner? Is this going to be the start of something special? Two 33 point games consecutively by any player is remarkable, but coming from a rookie guard makes it even more impressive.
After absorbing all of this Coby-madness, the Bulls were set to take on the Thunder headlined by Chris Paul, one of the Coby’s best friends and biggest life coaches. Coby played on Paul’s AAU team back in high school, and the two trained together for the entire summer most recently.
“I told Coby he wasn’t going to score 33 tonight,” Paul said to White prior to last night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He didn’t end that game with 33. He ended it with 35 — a new career high.
Coby White had his best game against one of the greatest point guards of all time.
He not only broke his career-high in three straight games, but he’s also broken a heap of NBA records.
- White became the first rookie in NBA history to score 30 points in three consecutive games since starters were introduced in 1970-71.
- He is the first player in Bulls’ history to put up 30-plus points in three straight games with 5-plus threes in each of them.
- He is the first player in Bulls’ history to score 30-plus points in three straight games since Michael Jordan.
- White is the first reserve in Bulls’ history to post 30 points in three consecutive games (via Bulls game notes).
- He’s the first rookie to do that while hitting five threes in each game since the three-point line was introduced in 1979-1980 (via ESPN).
- He and Zach LaVine became the first pair of guard teammates in Bulls’ franchise history to each score 30-plus points in consecutive games.
- 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). (via Bulls Game Notes)
Funnily enough, this isn’t the first time that Coby White has broken records set by Michael Jordan. White also broke Jordan’s record (460) for most points scored by a freshman in North Carolina history with 562 points back in 2019.
Record-breaking numbers aren’t the only thing that pops out at you about Coby White’s historic stretch. His numbers of late are even sweeter.
Throughout his last three games, he is averaging 33.7 points per game and 5.3 rebounds on 57.4/58.1/93.1 shooting splits.
Note to Jim Boylen: Keep giving this kid minutes.
He’s now broken through the dreaded ‘rookie wall’ and is putting forward some impressive stat lines. Since the All-Star break, White is averaging 28.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists on 50% three-point percentage (which ranks first in the league among players taking more than seven a game). Impressive.
Efficiency has always been a problem for the 20-year-old White, and while these numbers are certainly not sustainable, the rookie has certainly given Bulls’ fans something to be excited about. He’s been electric in his own regard.
He and LaVine both went back and forth chucking up heat checks against the Thunder, and it was probably the most fun a fan could ever have watching these Bulls.
Whether he is best suited as a starter or a bench guy right now is another hot topic, however, here is what White had to say when asked about his role earlier:
“No. I feel like I’m in a good position. Like I said, this year for me wasn’t about starting. It wasn’t being this, being that. It was about me getting better over the season.”
He does have the goal of finishing each game: “You want to be in at the end of the game to try to finish for your team. I think everyone on this team does. It’s our competitive nature. But yeah, it means a lot for me to be able to finish the game.”
“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,” star guard 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.”
And LaVine is right, Coby White has simply gotten better.
His decision-making is improving, his shot selection has rapidly improved, and his court awareness has also drastically gotten better. He won’t settle for early shot clock threes anymore and has flashed Russell Westbrook-like speed in transition and Gilbert Arenas-like touch when in the pick-and-roll game.
Two negatives to his game have also taken a turn. He’s 48.2% finishing at the rim this season, and throughout these last five games is finishing at a 72% rate. Another prior deficiency being, as mentioned earlier, his efficiency.
He’s 38.7% from the field on the season and 35.6% from three. While the latter is respectable, White does need to continue to improve as a consistent volume scorer.
However, with more minutes and increased usage, he is truly giving Bulls fans a glimpse of the player he can become going forward.
Starting or not starting, Coby White has the potential to become an elite shotmaker.