Trades, the life blood of the NBA offseason. They are one of the easiest ways to revitalize a franchise and fanbase. Arturas Karnisovas, Marc Eversley, and the rest of the Bulls top brass are no strangers to trades. They have effectively used the trade machine to overhaul 95% of the Bulls roster over the course of two seasons, and the upcoming draft presents an opportunity to raise that percentage even more. Strap in folks, because in this edition of the RokDeez Bulls Blog it’s time to trade Coby White.
Throughout his short tenure with the Chicago Bulls, my feelings on Coby White have waffled between “in” and “out” so often, that my brain has installed an emotional revolving door with his name on it. I’ve been both a critic and a cheerleader of White’s pretty much since he was selected 7th overall in the 2019 draft. That was the draft I was pining for Shamorie Ponds (not in the league) and Nicolas Claxton (Restricted Free Agent!!!). Post draft, I wrote this about White, and I think it still holds true today, “My fear is that White won’t mature fast enough for GarPax and us fans. I’m worried that the expectations for this 19 year old will be too high.” Coby has always had sky-high expectations heaped on his shoulders by Bulls fans, and I doubt he’ll ever be able to live up to them. It’s tough to be a young point guard in the NBA.
White has been asked to grow in a lot of different ways in his 3 seasons with the Bulls. He has been given Herculean tasks, like learning to be the lead ball handler on a team with tentative playoff aspirations while at the same time trying to turn himself into a lockdown perimeter defender, and we’ve seen him take those challenges head on. Unfortunately, I don’t think we can say that he ever successfully overcame those challenges. Coby hasn’t exactly flourished during his time with the Bulls, but there has been palpable growth, and you cannot deny his effort to improve.
I think at the moment I’m sort of in a grey space when it comes to Coby; I still believe in his potential to become a solid NBA player and contributor, but I’m not sure if he can get there on the Chicago Bulls, especially in the face of the fans lack of patience and a Front Office that have no ties to him.
Growth and effort are important to see in any player regardless of age, and Coby White is a young NBA player who still has real potential, perhaps not to superstardom, but potential to be a serious contributor on a winning team. If the Bulls aren’t the team that can unlock that potential, there are plenty of other teams in the league willing to try. And I believe that’s the reason we’ve seen so many rumors about the Bulls “shopping” White and the 18th pick. White is valued and respected around the league, he could play an important role for other teams.
What could a draft day trade involving Coby White look like? Well there are several scenarios that could play out…
There’s the possibility that the Bulls package Coby and the 18th pick to move up in the draft. It would mean that the Bulls are enamored with a prospect and afraid another team might grab them before they get to pick at 18. That attitude doesn’t jive with the patience we witnessed from Karnisovas last draft, waiting all the way to the middle of the 2nd round to scoop up Ayo Dosunmu. It also doesn’t fit with how thoroughly the Front Office does their draft homework. Unlike GarPax, who held draft day press conferences before the draft was even over, AK and Eversley have a draft board that goes deeper than 10 names. This Bulls team believes in their player development department, and has spent time, money, and other resources on building that department. Even if they are forced to choose option B, C, D, or E on their big board, I’m pretty sure the Front Office is confident they can turn that player into a contributor for the Bulls. Personally, I don’t think the Bulls are looking to move up in this draft, but you never know.
Another possible scenario is that the Bulls trade White straight up for a draft pick. Perhaps another contending team is looking for more bench help and doesn’t want to start from scratch with a rookie that might not fit what they’re trying to accomplish. Enter the slightly more established, yet still brimming with potential, Coby White, perhaps ready for a change of scenery and a 2nd chance at making a 1st impression. I’m not a big believer in this scenario either. For one thing, I’m not even sure what kind of draft pick or future draft pick White would be worth. Could the Bulls get a 1st rounder for him? A couple 2nd rounders? While I don’t think Karnisovas and Eversley are against adding a pick, I’m not sure that trading White for more potential makes sense with how they envision this roster taking shape. But maybe that’s where I’m wrong…
Before we go any further with draft and trade discussion, I think it’s time for a serious talk regarding the Bulls championship timeline. On the Bulls Talk podcast, one of my regular listens, long time Bulls beat writer K.C. Johnson and his colleagues at NBC Sports Chicago, fellow writer Rob Schaefer, and producer Tony Gill, played an eye opening game of “Will He/Won’t He” in which they ran through a number of players and Bulls staff members and asked will they or won’t they be on the team when the Bulls win their next championship. I won’t go into every individual pick, that’s for you to listen to, but what became clear is that nobody on the podcast believes this team is a season or two away from winning the championship. The timeline is much longer in the eyes of the people that cover this team on a daily basis. That was a sobering thought for me.
From the perspective of experienced journalists, people who have witnessed greatness first hand, and understand true championship level basketball, the Bulls are not as close to the promised land as we fans might hope. Even as their answers and discussion dashed my wildest dreams, their words resonated in my gut. Perhaps this Bulls team is a ways away from a championship, that doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to hope.
If the journalists feel this way about the team, it’s a good bet the Front Office does as well. So when we hear Arturas Karnisovas speaking about the importance of roster “continuity”, who is meant to benefit from that continuity? Is it Zach LaVine, the current face of the franchise? Is it Nikola Vucevic, the veteran all-star? Is it DeMar DeRozan, the fading superstar? No, the continuity is for the sake of Patrick Williams, Ayo Dosunmu, Marko Simonovic, and pick #18 of the 2022 NBA Draft. The continuity of this current roster is meant to bridge the gap between where this team is at, and an eventual championship. LaVine, Vucevic, and DeRozan, aren’t here to win a championship, they are here to be replaced by better players who will.
It’s the gamble that all NBA Executives have to make. Can they find, develop, or purchase players with enough talent and perseverance to win a title? AK and Eversley have done a great job bringing the Bulls back to relevance, back to the playoffs. They’ve repaired decades worth of damage to the reputation of the franchise in just a couple of seasons. They’ve ballooned the Bulls salary to one befitting a contending franchise, which is so important when it comes to being able to acquire/keep superstar talent. The last piece of the puzzle is developing the core of a championship caliber team, and that piece takes time and continuity.
All this side tracking leads me to the final trade scenario for Coby White I want to discuss, the scenario I find most likely, the one that speeds the timeline to a championship up a tick or two. The Bulls trade White and the 18th pick to a team for a young, but talented wing that fits the timeline of Williams, Dosunmu, Simonovic, and/or whoever else the Front Office identify as a championship caliber player.
In my mind, this is the kind of move that on paper looks almost like a lateral move. Maybe the player coming in is sort of like White, a guy that might benefit from a change of scenery, or a change in expectations. Maybe a future draft pick comes back to the Bulls in the deal, covering some of the drafts where picks have been used to bring in Vucevic and DeRozan.
At the end of the day, in order for a trade like this to be successful, AK and Eversley have to be on top of their game. They must recognize the hidden talent of the player, understand how to maximize their potential, and have a plan for that player to follow in order to reach that max level. The coaching staff will need to be a part of it from day one, and TIME and CONTINUITY will be necessary for the player to make the proper adjustments. If this sounds like a lot, it is, but it worked for the Golden State Warriors and Andrew Wiggins, so why not for the Bulls and Player X ?
And who is player X you wonder? Well, I have some ideas. Matisse Thybulle of the Philadelphia ’76ers is a name that the Bulls are rumored to have interest in. At 25 years old, he might be too old to fit the time line, but Thybulle is a dangerous defender that has yet to hit his offensive stride. Another strong defensive minded wing that might be available is Toronto Raptor, OG Anunoby. A few months younger than Thybulle, Anunoby is turning himself into a well rounded basketball player. He has steadily increased his offensive production every season he’s played. Maybe Deni Avdija has worn out his welcome in Washington, and the Wizards would be willing to part with him and a future draft pick for White and this years 18th. Maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder would be willing to part with any one of their young wings for yet another first round pick. When you start to look around the league, there are teams that might jump at an opportunity to add a draft pick and take White.
Or maybe the Bulls just go out and get Rudy Gobert.
Do the Bulls trade Coby White, the 18th overall pick, and who knows what at the Draft this Thursday? I really don’t know. All signs point to Coby White NOT being in the long term plans for the Bulls, which makes it a real possibility. Selfishly, I don’t want to give up that 18th pick, I think the Bulls have a real opportunity this Thursday to pick up a very good basketball player in the draft. But don’t listen to me, I’m the guy who was pining for Shamorie Ponds.
That does it for my 2022 pre-draft coverage. Whatever happens this Thursday, I hope to post about it sometime on Friday. We’ll see. Until I do, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!