Monday, September 26, 2022

The glaring weakness is expected to keep the ex-Top 10 pick out of the lead

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The Chicago Bulls have multiple options after Lonzo Ball’s second surgery in the past eight months. That procedure, scheduled for September 28, is expected to keep him out of action for four to six weeks.

It is being re-rated at this point, meaning a return to the floor for Ball could be closer to the February trading deadline than Christmas.

Meanwhile, it matters who the Bulls put in Ball’s place as they were lost without him.

Among the many possible solutions, the Bulls have veterans Alex Caruso and Goran Dragic, as well as youngster Ayo Dosunmu. All have seen many arguments for being the first main guard in Ball’s absence. The only realistic option that doesn’t seem to be under consideration is Coby White and that could be a mistake.

“Defensive concerns will prevent White from seriously considering replacing Ball as a starter,” writes Darnell Mayberry for The Athletic. “Last season’s acquisitions of Ball, Caruso and Dosumnu, coupled with the move to Dosunmu as a back-up starter last season and the signing of Dragić this summer, also raises questions about how much trust management and the coaching staff have in White have to lead the team as lead facilitator.”

To Mayberry’s reference to the Bulls’ confidence in White, they also added Dalen Terry’s 18th overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft.

But they are not necessarily at a disadvantage overall against White.

“You can say, ‘Oh, they didn’t move it, they didn’t move it,’ and I wrote that,” said KC Johnson during the ‘Bulls Talk Podcast’. But… I think if they had gotten the right offer, they probably would have misplaced him. They just didn’t feel like they got the right offer.”

Still, Mayberry’s stance on White’s defensive shortcomings is justified after he earned the team’s third-worst defensive efficiency rating last season, according to Cleaning the Glass.

As for his ball handling, White spoke of wanting to get stronger this offseason.

In White’s defense, he compensated for a sharp drop in his assists with a career-low in turnovers last season while posting career-bests from beyond the arc at 38.5% from deep. And in a team that’s still easy on three-point shooting, he could still provide a nice mix of that and playmaking if his connection with Bulls center Nikola Vucevic is still strong.

“White has always shown good rhythm and timing with Vučević, setting up the big man for several open shots from ball screens. It could be a pairing [Billy] Donovan dusts off to spark Vučević although Goran Dragić seems more likely. But White can also be dangerous off the ball with his sharp shooting. Whenever LaVine or DeRozan — or dare we say Patrick Williams? – initiates an attack, White can provide adequate ground clearance.”

Mayberry notes the Bull’s 11-6 record in starts from white and that the fourth-year guard shot 40% to more than six threes a game in his last 52 appearances last season.

He also mentions that White’s lead guard stint isn’t as disastrous as critics say.

White was on the floor as a point guard for two of the Bulls’ three qualifying non-Lonzo ball lineups that had a positive difference in efficiency. One of those lineups was in the 96th percentile defensively.

White is in a strange position where his current team seems to be in dire need of his skills. But for one reason or another, the partnership doesn’t seem to last, with reports that the bulls will examine its trade value as of the reporting date. That seems more plausible if Ball and his 42 percent three-point accuracy are seriously back in the herd.

Until then, as White plays more than minutes on this team, he will offer value.

With no new deal expected between White and the Bulls, the only question is what it would take for the Bulls to trade him.

“It probably hurt his reputation that he wasn’t a point guard by putting him in that spot,” said a rival Heavy manager Sean Deveney. “You have to get him on the right roll, a goalscorer off the bench who can pass a bit. He’ll get his reputation back if that happens.”

Her asking prize was a young rotary player and a draft pick. If they stick with that price, they could wait until next summer — and restricted action — before the situation clears up.

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