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Coby White can be a microwave scorer for the NBA’s next generation

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The Bulls rookie can get hot in a hurry.

Coby White was in a funk heading into the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls’ meeting with the New York Knicks on Tuesday night. The rookie was 0-for-5 from the field in the game and had missed 26 of his last 29 threes dating back to the start of the month. Tied going into the final frame, Chicago really did not want to lose to a Knicks team in crisis for the second time this season.

White finally saw a three-pointer go down a minute into the fourth quarter to put the Bulls up one. He hit another on the next possession, and then another. When the final horn sounded, White had broken an NBA rookie record with seven fourth quarter three-pointers to carry the Bulls to a 120-102 win over New York.

White also added a late layup to finish with 23 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to close out the game. That’s one way to break out of a slump.

This was only the eleventh game of White’s career, but he can already say he’s been directly responsible for leading the Bulls to two of their four wins. White also erupted in his second game to score 25 points against the Memphis Grizzlies to give Chicago its first W.

The Bulls knew they were getting a bucket-getter when they selected White with the No. 7 overall pick in June. It’s been an up-and-down rookie season thus far, but when White gets going, he looks like he could be the spiritual heir to the microwave scoring throne once held down by the likes of Vinnie Johnson and Jamal Crawford.

White never lacks confidence as a shooter

Despite White’s recent struggles, he never stopped shooting. He entered averaging more than 18 field goal attempts per-36 minutes while taking 42 percent of those attempts from three-point range.

How does a shooter break out of a slump? Just keep firing.

Here’s how White got his seven threes in the fourth quarter:

  • White’s first make was a one-dribble pull-up in semi transition
  • His second three was a one-dribble step-back going left
  • His third was a catch-and-shoot from the right wing off a feed from Ryan Arcidiacono
  • Make No. 4 was a catch-and-shoot from the right wing off a feed from Kris Dunn
  • The fifth triple was a catch-and-shoot off a feed from Arcidiacono after Wendell Carter Jr. grabbed an offensive rebound
  • The sixth made three was a catch-and-shoot from the top of the key off a feed from LaVine
  • The seventh was that ridiculous one-dribble step-back that’s embedded above

That’s seven three-pointers on just three dribbles in the fourth quarter. White wasn’t thinking about his shooting slump, he was just letting it fly. That’s a trait every great microwave scorer throughout history has had.

White had been struggling before this breakout

White’s standout performance in his second career game against Memphis earned him some goodwill from coach Jim Boylen and Bulls fans, but the truth is that he has been struggling immensely this year. White entered the night averaging 11 points per game, but he was shooting just 34 percent from the field, 21 percent on threes, and below 70 percent from the foul line. It hurt to look at his 42 percent true shooting percentage

Even after his fourth quarter explosion against the Knicks, White is still only shooting 28 percent from three-point range on the year.

This is to say: it’s important to keep White’s role and function in perspective even after a historic night. Still only 19 years old, his game has plenty of room to grow. White needs to learn how to read to the floor so he can leverage the threat of his scoring to make his teammates better. He needs to learn how to get to the foul line when his shot isn’t falling. He needs to add strength so he can absorb contact around the rim and get tougher defensively.

White always has his top-end speed to fall back on, but his effectiveness is also exclusively tied to whether his jump shot is falling right now. Maybe he’ll always just be a streaky bench scorer. Maybe he turns into a speedy starting-caliber guard who can play either backcourt spot. For a young player with so much possible variation in his long-term skill set, sometimes it’s best just to sit back and appreciate the early moments of promise.

All White needed was a visit from Roy Williams

Roy Williams, White’s coach at North Carolina, likes to visit his former players during their rookie years. He came to see White in Chicago on Tuesday. When he was interviewed on the TV broadcast, Williams said he was just hoping to bring White a little luck to break out of his slump. That happened in a big way when the fourth quarter came around.

This is the White that Williams knows. White broke high school scoring records in the state of North Carolina as a prep star, then became a one-and-done lottery pick at UNC after most initially thought he’d need to spend multiple years in college. It’s remarkable to think the Bulls’ franchise record for three-point makes in a game is nine, and a rookie just hit seven in one quarter.

White’s quick-hit scoring is always what’s defined him. The Bulls got an early sign of how beautiful that can be.