Why Coby White Could Win Most Improved Player

With different styles of play being implemented and an increased leadership responsibility, Coby White is being primed to have a big season.

Even the wise guys are getting wise to Coby White.

The kid may be about to prove it.

"Slowing down," White said earlier this week about his continuing comfort in the NBA. "Last year I played at one speed a lot, especially in the half court. Slowing the game down a little bit, making decisions off ball screens and just making the simple play; not making it harder than what it needs to be. I feel like I'll play a long time in this league. Knock on wood, you know, no injuries or nothing like that. If I just continue to get better, I'll play a long time in this league and hopefully get a championship and get some wins while I'm here."

Bet on it.

At least that's what at least one of the wagering services that now are so entrenched in the sports world says about White. Early odds for NBA post season awards feature White highest among Bulls players. Zach LaVine, surely, is the most accomplished as the team's leading scorer. But the early odds suggest it's time to watch out for White.

The Bulls 6-3 point guard is listed among the top five favorites for Most Improved Player along with Shai Gileous-Alexander, Christian Wood, DeAndre Ayton and Michael Porter Jr. Contenders for that award often are on an All-Star trajectory, which is not unreasonable for the 20-year-old guard who averaged 13.1 points last season while barely trying.

Imagine if he knew what he was doing, wasn't being shaped and misshapen throughout the season with mixed messaged about being a scorer or a point guard, and if he had started more than one game. White was the fastest rookie coming around the far turn toward the stretch last season, winning of the last Rookie of the Month award before the March virus shutdown. Coming off the bench until the team's last game before the stoppage, White had that run of 101 points in three games as he averaged 26.1 points on 43 percent three point shooting the last nine games. Including more than four assists and rebounds per game.

That's why it's so exciting to anticipate the flash of White with LaVine, though there could be some stalls along the way as they figure out how to complement one another instead of just complimenting the scoring totals.

It's not a backcourt designed for defense and it's not a backcourt participially adept at facilitating. But they still do count the most points at the end of the game. Zach has done that. It looks like Coby might be ready long before even the Bulls expected.

Slim reports from a buttoned-up Bulls training camp have indicated the ebullient White has been one of the main attractions as he was during the truncated local bubble camp for the team in September. Players have universally commended White for his kaleidoscope of emotions and verbal frankness that has galvanized the practices.

"It's kind of overwhelming when you first get to the league just to have that vocal presence," White admitted. "But this year coach (Chris) Fleming was the first during this offseason to tell me one of your biggest growths is leadership and having more of a voice on the court and demanding more and commanding more of the ball. So I've been focused on that. Then when Coach (Billy) Donovan got hired, his biggest thing, he said your biggest leap will be just be more vocal and communicative on the court and so that's all I've been trying to focus on.

"My decision making has came a long way from last year," White said with a laugh about months peering at the sideline for a play instead of up ahead. "I've still got aways to go. It's gonna be ups and downs; just gotta keep moving, keep getting better."

And it appears as if the style of play Donovan has embraced will fit and enhance White's skills.

The Bulls took a day off from practice Tuesday, but they were to be back at it Wednesday in anticipation of fan-free preseason games 7 p.m. Friday and Sunday against the Houston Rockets in the United Center. The Bulls finish their preseason schedule Dec. 16 and 18 in Donovan's muted return to Oklahoma City. The Bulls then open the 2020-21 regular season Dec. 23 at home against Atlanta.

White, meanwhile, is a scoring first guard with quickness and a precise shot with considerable range. He was anxious to please and be accepted last season like most rookies, so he felt around for his role like the lights went off in his windowless apartment. After an audacious start the first two games averaging 21 points, he crashed into that wall of frustration that flattened the team. He avoided injury, but not uncertainty. His puckish manner cooled with the temperatures. The Bulls never would get hot. But Coby's talent burned and if not so much in wins, it singed the imagination of Bulls fans. This kid could scorch the nets. And perhaps this season at a fabulous rate.

Coby White Talks to the Media During Bulls Training Camp

"It's more movement, way more movement, on and off the ball," White said about the offensive plans. "It's not just (the ball sticking) this year and calling for a ball screen at the top of the key or on the wing. It's a lot more movement on and off the ball. It's been good. It's new to us, so we're starting to get used to it. We're getting better each and every day.

"Just win games," White said in channeling LaVine's cherished Raiders NFL team. "Go out and compete more. Last year we had a lot of close games that came down to the wire. This year just finish those games off, finish strong and play with confidence down the stretch. Compete and finish."

Coby White's not a finished product yet. But the smart money is on Coby this season.