Coby White

Bulls' Coby White making case to win NBA's Most Improved Player award

Fifth-year guard averaging career-highs in multiple categories, growing as late-game closer

Coby White is making a case to win the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

SALT LAKE CITY --- For as humble as he is, Coby White doesn’t put on any airs about how being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player would resonate.

“It would mean a lot to me,” White said. “Just to show the progress I’ve made and to set the example to younger guys around the NBA that people can count you out and say what you want about you. But as long as you stay true to who you are, keep working and stay humble throughout, things can come your way.”

White authored one of his more compelling arguments for winning the award in the Chicago Bulls’ 22-point comeback on Monday night in Sacramento. After not taking a shot in the first quarter, White scored a career-high 37 points on 14-for-19 shooting with five 3-pointers. He also added seven assists.

“We’ve all seen him have that in him. But for him to not worry about mistakes, missed shots, and stay with it, it’s amazing,” DeMar DeRozan said. “Any given moment he can get it going and win us a game.”

Indeed, White now has seven 30-point games this season, matching his total from his previous four seasons combined. At 19.4 points per game, his scoring average has more than than doubled from last season’s 9.7 points per game.

He’s leading the NBA in total minutes, averaging career-highs in field-goal percentage at 45.4 percent, 3-point percentage at 38.7 percent on career-high volume of 7.3 attempts and passing for a career-high 5.3 assists.

“I think everybody develops at their own pace. Some guys come in and are already super talented. Like Luka (Doncic), Trae Young and those guys come in and impact the game instantly,” White said. “I feel like everybody has their own story, their own journey and run their own race. I feel like my race was different than everybody else’s.

“I want to continue to provide the example that I’m in Year 5 and I’m still continuing to get better. I feel like in the NBA that if you’re a lottery pick or high pick in the first round and you’re not an All-Star in the first two years, then you’re a bust. That’s how I feel like everyone looks at it in today’s NBA. But I wanted to get better and stay on the right track.”

White’s improvement is being noticed around the league.

“His ability to make shots from distance and play at the speed that he’s capable of playing at, that makes him extremely difficult to guard,” Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff said. “You have to get up and guard him. And now he has the ability with his speed and change of direction to get to the rim. So now he’s playing at all levels of the game.”

Added Bucks coach Doc Rivers: “Some guys just take longer. Some guys get it right away. You always saw flashes with him. Every year, he’d have a game or two. And now he’s putting them together and his confidence grows. . . . The biggest thing I see with him is his confidence. He’s more assured.”

White remains humble and hasn’t totally loved the media move of having to answer so many questions about himself rather than the team. In fact, he often, as he did late Monday night, steers the focus back to the team.

"It was a team effort," White said. "Ayo (Dosunmu) played really big. AC (Alex Caruso) had four steals. Julian (Phillips) came in, gave us some big minutes, had a big-time charge, got to the free-throw line after a big-time cut that got us a layup. Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) with a tip late that got AC an offensive rebound. Drum (Andre Drummond) the way he was screening was unbelievable, getting all the guards downhill. JC (Jevon Carter) too.

"So I don't really look at it as, 'Oh, man, me and Deebo are doing this and that.' I look at it as we got a good, solid team win. And I'm proud of our team."

White’s main competition for Most Improved Player will come from Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey, Golden State’s Jonathan Kuminga, Houston’s Alperen Sengun, Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams and possibly even the Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton. Toronto’s Scottie Barnes also may have received some attention until he fractured his hand.

You know how the Bulls’ locker room would vote.

“He has grown so much,” DeRozan said. “His poise is there. He wants those big-time moments even more.”

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