Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Coby White – Potential Sixth Man Of The Year Sleeper

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Coby White has yet to play any significant minutes, but it’s hard not to get excited thinking about his potential on this new Bulls team. That speaks to how good the Bulls have been playing and how impactful the addition of a guy like White is. Not many rosters improved to the point that a top-of-rotation player from last year won’t crack the starting lineup this year. The Bulls did that.



Last season, White was the Bulls’ third-highest in both points and minutes per game. This year, White will be coming off the bench. The 2020 season opener featured White starting alongside Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter, and Patrick Williams. Beyond these names, there wasn’t a whole lot to write home about on that Bulls roster.

Coby White Will Add Much Needed Firepower To Second Line

Depth was an area that the Bulls have severely lacked in previous seasons. There was a significant drop-off in talent beyond that starting group. With this new Bulls team, White will become a big piece to the depth that he never got to experience in his previous playing time.

The Bulls’ bench has provided a significant spark in several games thus far and has contributed to their winning record. Players like Alex Caruso, Derrick Jones Jr., and Ayo Dosunmu have been the main bench contributors for the Bulls.

Caruso leads the league in steals off the bench, DJJ’s athleticism and length allow him to guard just about anyone on the floor, and the rookie Dosunmu has been impressive in the early going. These three have seen the hardwood the most coming off the bench as they’ve clocked in almost 23% of total game time. However, they account for less than 16% of the Bull’s total number of points. Their impact on the team has been enormous so far, and their lack of offensive output shouldn’t take away from that.

Caruso, DJJ, and Dosunmu all bring similar aspects to the table. They are all high-energy guys who contribute most to the defensive end of the floor. Every winning team needs guys like them to have success. But none of them are score-first minded.

Some Bulls fans might argue that these guys have some scoring ability, which is hard to disagree with. But from what we have seen so far, that hasn’t been their identity on this team. The bench has exceeded expectations in many areas; however, the Bulls have lacked a high-caliber offensive threat who can come in and make shots. It’s been offense-by-committee from the Bulls bench to this point.

Enter Coby White

Coby White can be the offensive-minded link that this Bulls bench has been missing. In sixty-nine games for the Bulls last year, White averaged 15.1 points and 2.4 3-point field goals per game.

Over the last couple of seasons, the bulk of the Bull’s offense relied heavily upon Zach Lavine and White. Now the Bulls have multiple offensive weapons that they can go to within the starting line-up, but those weapons drop off quickly when it comes to bench scoring.

Here is where Coby can shine. He has already shown his ability to score points in bunches before coming off the bench. He became the first rookie in NBA history to score 30-plus points in three consecutive games coming off the bench. Also, in that stretch of games, he scored an electrifying 101 points.

For the Bull’s offense to be good in previous seasons, Coby had to supply a large portion of that. All of the pressure of running the Bulls offense alongside Lavine is off of his shoulders. Now, the Bulls can be great even if Coby isn’t putting up big numbers every night, and they have proven that so far. There are guys in this line-up who can score that aren’t named Zach or Coby. Lots of potential awaits Coby as he steps into this new role. There is the belief he’s going to be good coming off the bench for many reasons.

He will be a part of a team with playoff aspirations for the first time in his NBA career. It can’t be easy suiting up to play every night with the feeling that even playing excellent still might result in a loss. This new Bulls team is showing that they can belong and they can play with anyone. The Bulls believe they can go out and win every night, and that has to be a good feeling for a player like Coby. The bench role will be a significant confidence boost because he is playing for a franchise that acts like they want to win now.

You’d have to think that Coby White will have a competitive edge with him coming off the bench. I believe Coby Will want to remind everyone that he can be great in any role he’s placed in. He would like to remind everyone that he didn’t lose his starting job because he was a bad player. The Bulls just got better, so his role changed. Coby will likely want to show that he is a legit talent who can score against the first or second group.

The Bull’s second unit is starting to look more and more fun. Just thinking about Caruso, Dosumnu, Jones Jr., and Tony Bradley playing together alongside Coby fires me up. Everyone in this bench group already is excellent at playing their role without Coby. None of their functions are to be an offensive threat, but Coby’s is that. His addition would make things easier on the bench group to focus on what they individually do well. Fans are ready for more Caruso dimes, Jones Jr. slams, and Ayo development. White will help to ensure that all of that will continue.

How Good Can Coby Be?

There is plenty of hope for how high Coby White’s ceiling could potentially be in his return to the Bulls, but first, let’s look at his possible floor. At the very least, Coby will check in, score points and check out. He will make the Bulls better because he meets the need that they are asking for. His scoring ability is needed more now than ever. Everything indicates that Coby is right on schedule in regards to his shoulder surgery recovery timeline. If Coby comes back healthy and can stay that way, he becomes an instant improvement to this Bulls team.

The Bulls’ bench ranks near the bottom of the NBA in a multitude of offensive categories. The bench is, without a doubt, struggling to create offense. Many of the same areas that the Bulls bench offense is working to improve upon are areas that Coby excels in. Areas like points, three-point field goals, and assists are weak points that can be enhanced with Coby getting some minutes.

So what is his ceiling then? Well, there is reason to believe that Coby might have a shot at winning Sixth Man of the Year. Immediately you read that and think that that is a crazy thought. However, let’s look at some Sixth Man of the Year stats.

How The Award Is Won

First of all, when you look at the last 10 players who have taken home the hardware, 9 out of the previous 10 awards belong to guards. Montrez Harrel is the only recent award recipient who plays a position within the frontcourt. Aside from him, NBA backcourts have dominated this particular award.

Points are the most crucial factor when looking at who wins the award. Voters seem to favor points over any other statistic when determining who the award goes to. The last 10 award winners have averaged 17.9 points per game in the season that they won.

Some Bulls fans might think that Coby White isn’t even the most likely candidate on his team. Lots of fans would probably pick Alex Caruso as the player with the highest chance of winning it for Chicago. To counter that, voters have historically valued scoring over any other recorded statistic. The award appears to go to the best bench scorer rather than the most important bench player. If that were the case, Caruso would certainly receive my vote, but that’s not the type of player who wins it.

Caruso does everything you want him to do from a teammate standpoint. It’s just that his value is different from the prototypical sixth-man. He is an instrumental part of of this Bulls team. It’s hard to picture him receiving this award, and that’s not because he’s not a good enough player. However, if history indicates who might take the title this year, it will show that voters tend to favor those who score the basketball often.

In the game against the Lakers, Caruso played a total of 34 minutes of basketball and only had one shot attempt in which he failed to convert. However, he had a plus/minus of 28. If that isn’t an indication of his worth to this team, I don’t know what is. Caruso continues to do things to help the team win that never even show up in the stat sheet. He just doesn’t put the ball in the hoop enough to win the award in voters’ eyes. The only Bulls player who might do that enough to win Sixth Man of the Year on this team is Coby White, and Coby has proven that he can often put the ball in the hoop.

It’s also worth mentioning that Caruso and Javonte Green have both made appearances starting in the absence of Patrick Williams. In recent games, Billy Donovan has started Caruso. Fans will wait to see who will continue to be in that spot or if the lineup will continue to change. So, it will be interesting to see if Caruso will be regarded as more of a starter than a bench player at the end of the season.

White scratches a major itch with his addition to the roster. He’s not going to be competing with another offensive-minded bench player when he’s on the floor. Donovan will likely use Coby in several ways because scoring is a versatile and integral trait. Coby will probably spend most of his time on the floor without the starters, and that would give him the ability to control his destiny when it comes to scoring. The ball will be in his court, both literally and figuratively. How will he make the most of it? We will wait and see.

If you think about the Sixth Man of the Year award, you can’t help but think of Lou Williams. Williams might be the most notable successful bench player in the NBA from recent years. Sweet Lou won the award three times with two separate teams and two of those were back to back. Williams is a career bench player in the NBA and in many ways he’s changed the way people value bench players and the impact they have on the game in the NBA. He has had plenty of success in his time as a bench player because he has accepted his role so well.

While uncertain of exactly how much success Coby can have with the second unit, it’s interesting to see how his career numbers compare to Williams. Keep in mind, White is entering into just his third year of NBA action and first year as a bench player. While Williams is now up to his 17th year as a career role player.

Both players in their careers have averaged just over 14 points per game, shot slightly north of 40% from the field as well as 35% from three, and dished out about 3.5 assists per game. They both are a career 84% from the stripe. For a career, the two have eerily similar numbers in key offensive stats. All of these numbers come within one percentage point of each other, which is kind of remarkable.

Bulls fans should be excited at the sight of those numbers. The thought that a player with spark plug abilities like Williams on your team is entertaining to imagine. Regarded as one of the best if not the best sixth men of all time, Williams is tied for having the most Sixth Man of the Year awards, yet has never made a trip to the All-Star Game. Some players even believe he is worth consideration as a member of the Hall of Fame. There is a reason for the name Underground GOAT.

NBA fans around the league might have even forgotten about who Coby White is, given all of the changes within the Bulls roster this offseason. Here is this in case you have forgotten:

Oh yeah, and this record-setting performance from White came as a bench player.

Coby has played as a starter and bench player, so this isn’t necessarily unfamiliar territory. Not only that, but he has done well off the bench, and back then, he was just a 19-year-old. He has made indications that he wants to help this team. If that means he has to come off the bench to do so, then so be it.

Bulls fans can agree that this year feels different than the years prior. There is energy spreading around the fanbase and locker room that has been untapped for a while. It’s contagious, and having Coby back only adds to that excitement.

Here are the current odds for Sixth Man of the Year:

As you can see, Tyler Herro is a solid favorite to win the award, and rightfully so. He has been putting up some ridiculous numbers so far this season with the Heat. His averages are excellent for a starter on any NBA team, yet he comes off the bench on a deep Miami Heat squad. He averages a whopping 33.6 minutes per game, which is more than several starters. At this moment, it appears to be Herro’s award to lose.

Keep in mind also, the NBA has an 82 game regular season, and we are less than a month into the season. Coby has played 32 minutes this season as he is still recovering from shoulder surgery. 66 games remain in the season, which is enough time to prove that he is the best off the bench. Just last year, Jordan Clarkson won it in the same number of games played, so we know it’s possible.

Don’t be surprised if you see Coby’s name shoot up that list as he starts to regain some confidence and play more meaningful minutes. Billy Donovan will likely play Coby somewhere between 20-25 minutes once he is fully healthy. I’m convinced the more opportunities Coby gets to play, the more opportunities he will prove why he deserves our attention. He is still just 21-years old and right at the beginning of a hopefully long career in the NBA. Hopeful Bulls fans think that the best is yet to come and, the portion of his career we have been presented with is an indication of what is to come. Fans like myself are somehow more pumped to see Coby White: Bulls Sixth Man than they are to see Coby White: Bulls Starter.



Blake Biswell
Student at Missouri State University | Journalism major | Grew up in Quincy, IL | Avid Cardinal hater

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