Fatality. Sub-Zero Wins!


Last week, I was asking GarPax to find us a hero. Bulls fans need someone on this roster that we can trust to finish games and bring home wins. The other night against the New York Knicks, Coby White was that hero.

It’s interesting, I’ve had this conversation with several of my coworkers over the last few weeks, but I haven’t put it in any of my blog posts yet, it’s another half-baked RokDeez hot-take, but I think Coby White might be the best player on the Bulls.

I’m going to let that thought hang in the ether for a bit.

Coby White might be the best player on the Bulls.

I write this shortly after White drained 7 treys in the 4th quarter of a must win contest against the lowly Knicks, so maybe it seems hyperbolic, but I’m serious. I’ve been thinking about this possibility for several weeks now, and I’ve been reluctant to offer it up to the internet void like so many of my other half-baked hot takes, because even to me it seems ridiculous.

White is by no means a perfect player. And, if you are an ardent reader of this blog, you know I was never very high on him coming out of college. So, it might surprise you to have read the above statement hanging out in the ether, but there is something deeper to Coby White that makes me hope the statement is true.

Is Coby White the best player on the Bulls? My brain says “No.”

No. He has a lot of the same issues that Zach LaVine has, namely poor decision making, questionable shot choice, and he stops the flow of the offense by dribbling around the floor looking for a shot. He has a scorers mentality on offense, and that can make him appear selfish.

No. He’s a rookie, and he makes a lot of rookie mistakes. He forces up shots at the rim that are easily blocked. His shot is unique (i.e. ugly) and inconsistent. He’s best as a transition ball handler or off-ball guard, not the lead ball handler in a traditional half-court offense.

No. He doesn’t score the most points on the team. He doesn’t grab the most rebounds. He doesn’t dish out the most assists. He doesn’t force the most turnovers. His line in the box score doesn’t jump out at you on a consistent basis.

But yes, maybe Coby White is the best player on the Bulls.

I don’t want to put a ton of pressure on White, especially after what amounts to 3 games of brilliance and 8 of ho-hum-rookie-dom. But it’s not the explosive production that has me wondering about White’s talent ceiling, it’s his approach to the game.

He is relentless.

Even when he drives to the hoop and has his shot rejected by a defender, it doesn’t stop him from driving to the rim the next time down the court. He is determined and fearless.

The biggest critic of Coby White is Coby White. You can see him talking to himself as he hustles down the court after a poor offensive possession. You can see him on the sideline, on the bench, talking to himself about a sequence he might want to have back. You know it about him when you hear the stories of how he spends his off days in the gym, working on his shot mechanics with his brother because he’s been in a slump.

Coby White wants to win. He doesn’t care about his stats. He doesn’t talk about All-Star games, or Rookie of the Year awards. He wants to make his team better. Any time Coby gives an interview he makes a point of thanking his teammates for any of his individual success. He thanks his teammates for their support and guidance. White has real humility, which is rare in an NBA player.

Don’t be fooled by White’s “ah, shucks” interviews. The man is a stone cold killer.

White’s nickname is Sub-Zero, after the infamous Mortal Kombat video game character who freezes his opponents and rips their spines out. Cold blooded. It’s that same cold blooded killer that White tries to emulate on the court. Ice in his veins, he freezes his defender and knocks down the three that rips out their spine. It’s this killer instinct I find most intriguing about White.

So far, we haven’t seen it with any consistency, but White’s ability to dramatically run up the score in a short amount of time is something I expected from Zach LaVine this season. Coby has taken over games and bent them to his will, again, something I expected LaVine to be doing.

It’s way too early in his career to get this excited about 3 great games out of 11 total, but there haven’t been many Bulls rookies capable of taking over a game: Derrick Rose immediately jumps to mind as someone who did it on a nightly basis, and Lauri did it a few times in his rookie season, but that kind of dominance from a rookie is rare.

White is doing things on the court no other Bulls player has done in the history of the franchise. 7 three pointers in the 4th quarter against the Knicks is a franchise record for threes in a quarter, and made him the youngest player in NBA history to record 7 threes in a game.

My brain still isn’t sold on Coby White.

Bulls broadcaster Stacey King, during NBCSports Chicago broadcasts of games, loves to compare White to former Bull Ben Gordon, and if White can reach the heights that Gordon did as a player that would be fantastic. But my brain keeps whispering the name “Cameron Payne” whenever I see White do something brilliant.

It wasn’t too long ago that Payne had a similar 7 three point outburst for the Bulls. Both Payne and White have funky shots. Both are better as off-the-ball guards. Both hunt for their shot…

This is where my heart takes over and reminds me that:

1) Payne was doing those things after 3-4 seasons in the league. There is still time for White to break bad habits.

2) White is a much better defender than Payne could ever hope to be.

3) Payne always forced his offense. White is patient, and while he’ll force shots at the rim, he usually only does that when he is the number 1 scoring option on the court for the Bulls.

4) Payne would shoot the ball from anywhere he could find open space. White meticulously dribbles himself to spots he knows he can score from, frequently getting defenders on his back with snaking dribbles, or opening up angles for drives to the basket with hesitation moves and head fakes. There is method to White’s game, where as Payne’s simply smacked of desperation.

White’s relentless mentality, his drive for self improvement, and his methodical approach to the game make me wonder if he is the best player on the Bulls squad. The emergence of his killer instinct only strengthens my hope that he is the hero we fans have been pining for. It’s still too early to know, and way too early to pin those expectations on White. For now, we just have to wait and watch, hope and pray, that White has more Sub-Zero in him that Cameron Payne.

Until we know, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!