Are White, Williams destined to follow Markkanen's career path?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen passes the ball against the Brooklyn Nets during a game last season. Since moving to Utah, Markkanen is as one of the favorites to win the Most Improved Player Award.

    Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen passes the ball against the Brooklyn Nets during a game last season. Since moving to Utah, Markkanen is as one of the favorites to win the Most Improved Player Award. Associated Press

  • Bulls' Coby White looks to pass during a game against the Bucks. White is headed for restricted free-agency after the season and it's still tough to get a handle on what his future will be.

    Bulls' Coby White looks to pass during a game against the Bucks. White is headed for restricted free-agency after the season and it's still tough to get a handle on what his future will be. Associated Press

  • Bulls' Patrick Williams works against the Boston Celtics during a November game. Williams, now in his third season, has increased his productivity, but it's been baby steps.

    Bulls' Patrick Williams works against the Boston Celtics during a November game. Williams, now in his third season, has increased his productivity, but it's been baby steps. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 11/10/2022 11:03 PM

Last year, Coby White talked about the challenges he faces in trying to be a solid NBA defender. He's not especially tall for an NBA backcourt player, doesn't have a huge wing span and he's not the sort of high-flyer who will be invited to the dunk contest.

In a way, White was referencing a more general question to his career: Why was he the No. 7 pick of the 2019 draft when he was missing those physical attributes?

 

The Bulls have been in a constant cycle of waiting for young players to develop since the rebuild began in 2017.

White is headed for restricted free-agency after the season and it's still tough to get a handle on what his future will be. Patrick Williams, now in his third season, has increased his productivity, but it's been baby steps.

Meanwhile, Lauri Markkanen is out in Utah as one of the favorites to win the Most Improved Player Award. All these examples are more proof of why it was such a bad decision to rebuild.

In the era of one-and-done college players, it's tough to project their futures with such a limited sample size and teams tend to get impatient when a player endures a relatively normal learning curve, which is why so many move on from their original teams.

Only five players from the 2017 first-round still play for the teams that drafted them.

White always seemed like the type of player who was more likely to find success with his third NBA team rather than the Bulls. In theory, he's a great weapon to have, someone who can average 15 points per game off the bench and is already flirting with Sixth Man Award territory.

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But White's hot streaks have been few and far-between. Every time he seems to be figuring things out, he hits a slump, which describes a lot of recent Bulls players.

Markkanen had that stellar 14-game stretch during his second season when he averaged 24.6 points and 13.3 rebounds. Then when defenses started focusing on him and playing more physical, he lost that formula for the next couple of years, Markkanen talked about leaving the Bulls on a Stadium podcast with Shams Charania this week.

"I'm the person who always looks in the mirror first and tries to figure it out," Markkanen said. "When it was hard, I think I just put even more pressure on myself to make the next play. If you don't get as many shots, you better make these shots count.

"It was just a vicious circle trying to figure it out. It was a tough year, and I think it got to a point where it wasn't that much fun anymore, the last two years in Chicago."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Bulls wanted to keep Markkanen. The plan was to have him and Williams at power forward last season. But Markkanen wanted a fresh start, Williams got injured and the Bulls ended up with 6-5 Javonte Green as their starting power forward for most of the year.

In Utah, Markkanen seems to have found a formula that works. According to basketball-reference.com, his usage rate is highest since his second season with the Bulls; his percentage of 3-point shots are at a career-low, while his percentage of dunks are at a career-high.

It always seemed clear Markkanen wasn't meant to be a stretch-four who stood at the 3-point line. Former coach Jim Boylen talked constantly about how getting rebounds would open up Markkanen's game, but it never clicked in Chicago.

Are White and Williams headed for the same fate, needing a fresh start to find success? One frustrating part of White's story is the two shooting guards drafted after White that year -- Miami's Tyler Herro and Golden State's Jordan Poole -- who have signed big extensions and played in the Finals.

Herro has the height and length White lacks. Poole has the sort of quick-twitch movements that allow him to get his shot off. Would White be a better player today if he'd been drafted by Miami or Golden State? Would Herro or Poole have had as much success if they started with the Bulls? We'll never know.

Over the past nine games, Williams has averaged 10.4 points and shot 49% from the field. One concern is no one seems to have a handle on the best way for Williams to contribute.

White has missed the last six games with a left quad strain, while Andre Drummond returned against the Pelicans from a shoulder injury.

Wednesday they needed someone who could stop New Orleans' Brandon Ingram in the fourth quarter and no one delivered.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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