Can rookie Coby White still be a legitimate point guard for the Bulls? Just ask him
Coach Jim Boylen gave White the lead-guard duties with the second unit in December. He has seen growth from White, but the jury is still out.
The Bulls still see rookie Coby White as a legitimate starting point guard in the NBA someday.
White sees himself in that role, too.
The problem is, ‘‘someday’’ is definitely not now. The last five weeks or so, he has seemed to be more suspect than prospect in the Bulls’ rebuild.
Still, the Bulls have faith things will come together for him.
‘‘It’s developing; his decision-making is developing,’’ coach Jim Boylen said of White. ‘‘I think that’s for everybody. . . . Regardless of your position, what decisions do you make with the ball? When to pass, when to shoot, when to move, how to screen, when to screen? That’s just what our game is. He’s not any different than anybody else.’’
The growing pains might be the same for White as they are for any 19-year-old rookie, but the Bulls drafted him as a point guard with the No. 7 overall pick, even though many scouts saw his decision-making as something that needed a lot of work.
That aspect of White’s game has improved since Boylen made him the primary ballhandler with the second unit in December, but has it improved enough for the Bulls not to address the position in free agency or the draft this summer? That will be the true indicator about how they feel about White’s talent.
‘‘I coached [former combo guard] Steve Francis,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘I’ve coached young guards in this league that maybe weren’t pure points that have to figure it out and use their athleticism and then grow. To me, that’s where [White’s] at. I love having him on this team, and I thought it was a great pick at [No. 7].’’
How great will take years to determine. What requires no guesswork now is what White has done with the ball in his hands rather than playing off it.
In November, his first full month in the league, White was a shoot-first microwave off the bench, averaging 13.1 points and only 1.9 assists. In December, when Boylen began giving him more time at the point, White averaged 9.4 points and 2.4 assists and showed progress setting up his teammates.
So far in January, however, that progress seems to have leveled off. White is averaging 10.3 points and 2.1 assists, and his turnovers have stayed at 1.5 per game. The second unit has been playing better, but that also might be a result of players understanding their roles better than they did earlier in the season.
Just don’t tell White he might not have the point-guard chops moving forward.
‘‘Yeah, for sure,’’ White said about being a starting point guard. ‘‘Coming into the league, that’s what I was. I was a lead guard at North Carolina and in high school. It’s what I’ve been most of my life. Of course, I want to be that one day.
‘‘You don’t know your path or which road guys are willing to take you on. I’ll just be waiting and find out where I am in the future.’’
The good news for the Bulls is they still have 2½ months this season to evaluate White as a point guard. The way it looks right now, they’ll need every day of that.