Coby White's All-Rookie selection puts bow on top of standout first-year campaign

White becomes the first Bull to make an All-Rookie selection since Lauri Markkanen in 2018.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

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NBA All-Rookie Second Team selection Coby White ended his rookie season as arguably the hottest player in the NBA, averaging 26.1 points per game over Chicago's final nine games.

The Bulls last year believed they drafted one of the league's best rookies. The NBA, on Tuesday, confirmed that when Coby White was named to the annual All-Rookie team, a Second Team selection.

The acknowledgement comes six months after the suspension of the NBA regular season for the coronavirus. The Bulls played 65 games in their part of the season as White had just been breaking through when the season was halted. He was named NBA February Rookie of the Month just before getting his first start of the season the game before the interruption. Twenty-two teams, not including the Bulls, continued on to Orlando for an eight-game conclusion to the regular season and the playoffs.

Rookie of the Year Ja Morant of Memphis was a unanimous First Team selection, the only player named on all 100 ballots from media. Also making the First Team was Kendrick Nunn of Miami, the Chicago native and onetime University of Illinois and Simeon Career Academy player who was undrafted in 2018 and played in the G-league last year. Other First Team members were Memphis' Brandon Clarke, the Pelicans' Zion Williamson and Eric Paschall of Golden State. White received eight First Team votes and third most for the Second Team behind Miami's Tyler Herro and Toronto's Terence Davis. Others on the Second Team were P.J. Washington of Charlotte and Rui Hachimura of Washington.

It was an ambivalent end for the 20-year-old White, stalled in the midst of one of the best offensive streaks in the NBA at the time. But also apparently ready to accelerate into the rare air of NBA excellence.

Coby White goes up for a layup against Oklahoma City.

Coby White goes up for a layup against Oklahoma City.

"It was big for me, my confidence," White related last March when the Rookie of the Month award was announced. "Sometimes you have to prove other people wrong and sometimes you have to prove to yourself that you belong and February was that for me. Like I belong in this league and I feel I can be a force in the league for a long time."

White averaged 20.1 points, 4.1 assists and four rebounds in February on 41 percent three-point shooting. He had a record run of three consecutive games off the bench scoring at least 33 points with a season high 35. He became the first Bulls Rookie of the Month winner since Nikola Mirotic in March 2015 and followed 2018 All-Rookie team member Lauri Markkanen.

White's exceptional play continued into March with back to back games scoring 26 points against the Pacers and Timberwolves and then 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in the March 10 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in White's first start of the season. White along with Tomas Satoransky were the only Bulls to play in every game. The NBA suspended the season the following day and the Bulls never got the opportunity to play again, finishing the season 22-43.

But if the exit was any indication of what's ahead, White's closing performance deserves an encore.

In the team's last nine games with just one start, the 6-4 White averaged 26.1 points per game with more than four assists and four rebounds and shot more than 43 percent on threes.

For the season, White averaged 13.2 points on 35.4 percent shooting on threes. He finished among the Bulls tied for first in games played, third in scoring, fourth in assists, fifth in three-point shooting and sixth in steals. Among all rookies, White was sixth in scoring and steals and fourth in assists despite just one start and not having the extra eight games many had, including top rookies Morant and Williamson.

"It was exciting to get my first start because, obviously, my goal is to be a starting point guard in the NBA," White said in March. "So that meant a lot being my first one. I feel like after the All-Star break I got a lot more comfortable on the court with running the team and the offense and defensively. I felt I definitely could play in this league. I felt like after the All-Star break, I could make a huge impact in the league. So I just have to keep doing what I'm doing. This first year has been good for me with the ups and downs to see what I needed to do, to go through the adversity, and then (the improvement) after the All-Star break."

Coby White follow through

White began to get noticed not only with the February Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month designation, but with the appreciation from his peers. Ja Morant, the 2019-2020 Rookie of the Year, posted on Twitter that fans and media should be talking about White. Future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade posted his favorite rookies to watch were Morant, Zion Williamson and White.

"It was tough (to see the season suspended)," White said in an interview in April after the suspension. "It hurts, especially after that first start of the season and the win. Though there are more important things going on. At the end of the day, you control what you can control. You can't control what is happening. So you take care of people and do what you can and listen to the professionals."

White was the seventh selection in the 2019 draft after one season at the University of North Carolina. He had been the state's all-time leading high school scorer. He came into a crowded backcourt in Chicago with the free agent addition of Satoransky and holdover Kris Dunn working his way back to a starting job with defense. Which made the path somewhat confusing for White, alternately considered either a bench scorer or then facilitator as a point guard.

White had a blazing start to the season in October, averaging 21 points on 16 of 29 shooting in the team's first two games. But then amidst varying roles in December, he averaged just 9.4 points and 10.3 in January and was left off the Rising Stars All-Star team despite the All-Star weekend being in Chicago. White then had a classic "I'll Show You" post All-Star run to the Rookie of the Month award and three consecutive games scoring at least 33 points the week after the All-Star game.

"My first two games I played really well," White recalled. "Then I hit reality. You go back and you keep asking yourself, ‘What was I doing the first two games?' It's a different level of competition. Your whole life you've always been the man wherever you've been at; everybody on this team has been the man wherever they've been at. Then you come here in the league and everybody can hoop. You're not always going to play good every night and there are going to be a lot of ups and downs.

Coby drops seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter vs. New York

"My rookie year has been humbling to me because you come in thinking I'm that dude," White said in that March interview. "Then you get a reality check. Some people don't, like Zion..Ja. For me, I'm thankful for how my rookie year has gone. The reality check has been not to take anything for granted, continue to be humble and continue to be me.

"I always tell people I love the way Chicago has accepted me because it wasn't always as good as it was after the All-Star break," White said. "But the fans and the city all seem on my side. They're watching me grow and learn and continue to progress as the season went on. It means a lot to me to be a Bull and play in Chicago.

"With me, Zach, Wendell, guys we have, I feel like we were getting better and we can start jelling and string together some wins for sure when we play again," said White. "It takes some patience, for sure, but I feel we'll put in the work and that it will be interesting."

White Hot: Coby White's last nine games.

White Hot: Coby White's last nine games

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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