Coby White

Sixers’ Maxey Named Most Improved Player

Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey has won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award for the 2023/24 season, the league’s communications department tweets.

Maxey edged out Bulls guard Coby White for the award. Maxey received 51 of 99 first-place votes while recording 319 voting points. White had just 32 first-place votes, but showed up on more ballots (91) than Maxey (79) and compiled 305 points.

The third finalist, Rockets center Alperen Sengun, was a distant third with six first-place votes and 92 points.

Thunder forward Jalen Williams and Knicks guard Jalen Brunson finished fourth and fifth, respectively, according to the NBA, which revealed the full voting results on Twitter.

A total of 14 players appeared on at least one ballot, with Wizards forward Deni Avdija and Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton each earning one first-place vote.

Maxey, who is expected to sign a maximum-salary contract this offseason as a restricted free agent, ranked 11th in the NBA in points per game (+5.6 PPG from last season) and 20th in assists per game (+2.7 APG from last season). The first-time All-Star also made a career-high 212 three-pointers, up from 160 last season.

Maxey recorded three games of 50 or more points, tied for the most in the NBA. Those were the first 50-point games of his four-year career.

Maxey is the first member of the Sixers to win the award since Dana Barros was the leading vote-getter for the 1994/95 season.

Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jokic Named MVP Finalists

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nuggets center Nikola Jokic were revealed on Sunday as the finalists for the Most Valuable Player award, according to the NBA (Twitter link).

Doncic led the league in scoring (33.9 points per game) and finished second in assists (9.8) while also grabbing 9.2 rebounds per contest. Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder to the top seed in the Western Conference by averaging 30.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. Jokic, who is widely considered the favorite to win his third MVP trophy, averaged 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists per night.

The NBA also announced the finalists for six other postseason awards. Here are the finalists for all of those awards:

Most Valuable Player

Sixth Man

Defensive Player of the Year

Most Improved Player

Note: Sengun appeared in just 63 games but was eligible for award consideration based on the season-ending injury exception described in our glossary entry on the 65-game rule.

Coach of the Year

  • Mark Daigneault, Thunder
  • Chris Finch, Timberwolves
  • Jamahl Mosley, Magic

Rookie of the Year

Clutch Player of the Year

Bulls’ Alex Caruso Expects To Play On Friday

APRIL 19, 10:30am: Caruso said that he expects to be able to play on Friday vs. Miami, per Jamal Collier of ESPN (Twitter link).

APRIL 18, 4:12pm: After undergoing further evaluation on his ankle, Caruso is experiencing reduced swelling and there’s increased optimism in his availability to play against the Heat on Friday in the play-in game, Wojnarowski reports (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski, Caruso is expected to be a game-time decision.

APRIL 18, 6:45am: Bulls guard Alex Caruso has a “significant” left ankle sprain, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the injury casts doubt on Caruso’s availability for Friday’s do-or-die play-in game in Miami.

Caruso missed games on April 7 and April 12 due to what the Bulls referred to on the injury report as a left ankle contusion. The team indicated after Wednesday’s win over Atlanta that his latest injury is a re-aggravation of an earlier injury, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link).

The injury occurred when Andre Drummond stepped on Caruso’s right foot early in the second quarter (Twitter video link), sending him to the floor. According to Jamal Collier of ESPN, Caruso said that he aggravated his left foot issue while trying to keep his balance on that play. The veteran guard limped to the bench, then checked back into the game a few minutes later before eventually exiting for good until early in the third quarter.

“I do until I can’t,” Caruso said after the game when asked if he expects to play on Friday. “We’ll see how it goes the next couple days, but my mindset would be to play until my body tells me I can’t.”

Caruso is the Bulls’ top perimeter defender and helps balance a more offensive-minded starting lineup, so it would be a major loss if he’s unable to suit up on Friday. In that scenario, the team would likely have to count on another big offensive game like the one it got on Wednesday — Chicago’s four starters besides Caruso combined to score 107 of the club’s 131 points against Atlanta, with Coby White‘s career-high 42 leading the way.

As K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes, White’s career high won’t technically go into the record books, which don’t count play-in performances, but White said he’s “definitely counting it.” Head coach Billy Donovan praised the Most Improved Player candidate after the win for his all-around contributions, not just his 42 points.

“He did a good job playing aggressively, took his threes when they were there. And he made a lot of good passes to guys. I thought he played a really complete game,” Donovan said. “I know the number 42 is a huge game and really phenomenal. But I thought he played a really complete game. I thought he defended. I thought he assisted, got downhill, made the game easy for guys.”

The Bulls are already missing Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, Lonzo Ball, and Onuralp Bitim due to season-ending injuries, so if they have to play without Caruso on Friday, they’ll lean more heavily on White and the rest of their healthy rotation players to try to keep their season alive.

Central Notes: Green, Bulls, Ball, Mitchell, Bucks, Flynn

In his first game after signing a rest-of-season contract that made him eligible for the postseason, Bulls swingman Javonte Green had the best performance of his career in Friday’s victory against the Knicks, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

The 30-year-old finished with careers highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds, shooting 10-of-14 from the floor while contributing a pair of steals and a block in 33 minutes.

He’s one of those guys you want to have on your team,” DeMar DeRozan said of Green. “For him to bounce back in a tough year for him just trying to get back healthy and for him to be doing what he’s been doing since he came back is amazing. We all know what to expect from Woo. Every time he goes out there, he plays like he’s 6-9 and he does anything and whatever for the team. … He’s one of a kind. I’m glad to have him back.”

While Green provided a much-needed boost and a feel-good story, the win was marred due to ankle injuries to Coby White and Alex Caruso, who both left the game and were unable to return, Johnson adds. The two starters were able to walk on their own after the game and seemed to be in “good spirits,” though head coach Billy Donovan said the team would have to await further testing to learn the extent of the injuries.

Here’s more from the Central:

  • Appearing on 670 The Score (YouTube link), LaVar Ball — the father of injured Bulls guard Lonzo Ball — projected his son could start playing 5-on-5 with full contact in August or September, as Ryan Taylor of NBC Sports Chicago relays. “I’m thinking at least four or five months. Four or five months where he can really get dialed and do what he do,” LaVar said. That projection aligns with what Donovan said about Lonzo’s recovery last month, Taylor notes. Ball, who hasn’t played since January 2022, has undergone three knee surgeries over the past two-plus years, but the team is cautiously optimistic he could return next season.
  • If the Cavaliers fail to make a deep playoff run and Donovan Mitchell declines a contract extension, would they entertain the possibility of trading him this summer? Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report explores that topic, listing five potential landing spots for the All-Star guard if Cleveland goes that route.
  • The Bucks were expected to be a title contender, and they’re still (barely) clinging to the No. 2 seed in the East. However, they’ve been playing their worst basketball of the season at the absolute worst time, dropping five of their past six games, including three straight to Washington, Memphis and Toronto — three teams at the bottom of the standings — with only five regular season games remaining, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. After Friday’s loss to the Raptors, who had dropped 15 straight games, Bucks players said they’re not panicking, but they’re frustrated, as is their head coach. “The last three were against three bad teams. To me, that’s inexcusable. For all of us,” said Doc Rivers, who is now just 15-16 with Milwaukee since taking over mid-season. “As I told them, this is on me. I gotta figure out what we gotta do to play at a higher pace.”
  • Pistons guard Malachi Flynn has averaged 5.4 points on .386/.337/.749 shooting in 208 career regular season games (14.2 MPG). He had one of the most unexpected 50-point games in NBA history on Wednesday, shooting 18-of-25 from the floor while being plus-14 in 34 minutes in an eight-point loss to Atlanta. In Friday’s loss to Memphis, the former 29th overall pick fell back to Earth, notes John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link), going 0-of-12 from the field and scoring three points (all at the free throw line) while being minus-13 in 23 minutes. If Detroit issues him a qualifying offer, Flynn will be a restricted free agent this summer; otherwise, he’ll be unrestricted.

Coby White Talks Most Improved Player Candidacy, Leadership, Development

Coby White has emerged as a top candidate for Most Improved Player honors this season. As he tells K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, the Bulls‘ point guard feels he is just one among many legitimate contenders for the accolade.

Through 71 games this season, White is averaging a career-best 19.3 PPG on .444/.381/.839 shooting, along with a career-best 5.3 APG and 4.7 RPG.

“There are a lot of guys playing well this year,” White said. “It would mean a lot if I would get that award—just to show the work. And I always say, it would set a standard for other young guys in the league who maybe wasn’t looked at as a power right away. Like, ‘Aw, he was the seventh pick’ and not written off so much but looked at as, ‘He can’t make that leap.’ A lot of people say the leap comes from your second to third year. Mine came from my fourth to fifth year. There’s always still time. I’m only 24. Just continue to trust that work.”

Their conversation is well worth reading in full. Here are some other highlights.

On why he considers his improvement this season more meaningful than his performance in his second pro season (when he averaged 15.1 PPG and 4.8 APG):

“My second season was cool, bro. But we weren’t as competitive as we are now. I think that’s what makes a huge difference. We’re playing for something now. My second season, it was cool. I averaged whatever. But I just feel like this year . . . my second year I was just out there playing. Like, I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I was just out there hooping. This year, I know what’s going on. I know more of what I’m doing. Obviously, I still have to get better. But I feel I’ve grown as a player and person so much since that second season that this feels different.”

On how he’s evolving as a leader:

“I’m comfortable. I was talking to AC (Alex Caruso) last game. I was telling him: I found my voice last year. OK, cool. The challenge this year is with the importance I have on the team, with the role that I have, with the amount of minutes I play, how can I continue to lead on a consistent basis? In the course of a game, emotions are high. A lot of variables go into each game. You’re human. You’re obviously aware of how you’re playing in any given game.

And that’s what I was talking to AC about and he said being consistent with your voice no matter how it’s going for you was one of the hardest things he had to learn. No matter how the game is going or how I’m playing, I want to continue to consistently use my voice and bring my spirit to uplift my teammates and not do it on an inconsistent basis. I feel like I have to continue to grow there.”

On how he’s working with player development coach Ty Abbott to improve his endurance:

“He talked about me solidifying myself as a player now so going into next season, we have to sit down and figure out a way where you still feel comfortable and in a rhythm without putting too much wear and tear on your body on those off days. I’ve had to change a lot of stuff in my routine, even game-day routines. After every shootaround, I used to shoot for 30 or 40 minutes. Now it’s down to like 12 to 15 minutes. It’s been a learning process. It’s an exciting learning process. This is what you want as a player. But it has been difficult to adjust.”

Bulls Notes: White, Green, Caruso, Terry

Coby White returned to the Bulls‘ lineup this week after missing three games with an injured right hip, but he hasn’t fully recovered from the brief absence, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Coach Billy Donovan cited “timing” as an issue after White shot 3-of-11 from the field in Saturday’s loss to Boston, and the fifth-year guard agrees that he has work to do in that area.

“At this point of the season when you miss a week it feels like a lot longer than that,” White said. “So for me I don’t want to force it. Just let the game come to me. I’m just trying to go out there and contribute any way I can right now.”

The bigger picture for White is that he has likely changed the organization’s view of the roster with his performance this season, Cowley adds. After signing an extension last summer, White has enjoyed a breakout year, averaging 19.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists through 68 games and becoming a candidate for Most Improved Player honors.

“Obviously the summer, him signing a long-term deal, we made the commitment to him that we wanted him to be here,” Donovan said. “What Coby has done you would want to create organizationally a runway for him to continue to grow, continue to develop. But I haven’t necessarily had the discussion where it’s been, ‘Wow, we got this guy and now we’ve got to do this.’”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • The Bulls used the hardship exception to sign Javonte Green to a 10-day contract on Saturday, Cowley confirms in a separate story. Green, who has appeared in 113 games with Chicago over the past three seasons, hasn’t been promised any playing time in this latest opportunity, according to Cowley, and he understands what’s expected of him. “Just be myself,” he said. “Obviously, the Bulls know what I bring to the table.” Green also told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago that he’s confident in his right knee after undergoing an arthroscopic debridement in January 2023. “Just tried to strengthen the quad and strengthen the area that I had discomfort in,” he said. “That was a long process, six months.”
  • Alex Caruso is hoping to be ready for Monday’s game against Washington after injuring his left ankle Saturday night, Johnson states in a separate story. Caruso walked to the locker room after getting tangled up with Boston’s Al Horford with 6:54 left in the second quarter, but he was able to return and played through discomfort in the second half.
  • Second-year guard Dalen Terry is taking on a larger role with an injury-filled roster, notes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Terry said he has taken inspiration from watching White develop into an accomplished player. “It’s all mental,” Terry said. “It’s all just blocking out the noise and trusting yourself. Just keep faith. Keep believing in what you’re going to achieve.”

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, White, Ball, Karnisovas

The Bulls had to finish Thursday’s loss in Houston without their leading scorer after DeMar DeRozan was ejected along with Dillon Brooks for an incident midway through the third quarter (video link), writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. After DeRozan was whistled for a Flagrant 2 for a hard foul on Jalen Green, Brooks confronted him.

DeRozan blamed Brooks for escalating the conflict, saying “it’s an issue walking up on any man from behind.” He also claimed that he was off balance and didn’t intend to foul Green as hard as he did.

“I was surprised just from the simple fact that I was trying to hedge out and just be aggressive, obviously bumped him, but if you look at it, I kind of tripped into it,” DeRozan said. “I’m not dumb. These days it’s just so hard to tell when you go back and look at a review. It wasn’t anything I was trying to do intentionally.”

KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes that DeRozan thought a foul should have been called when Green blocked his shot on the previous trip down court. Coach Billy Donovan told reporters that his players have to do a better job of not being affected by missed calls.

“We have to control ourselves and adjust to the officials,” Donovan said. “The crew that was on the game is a good crew. They’re good guys. They work extremely hard.”

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Coby White came off the bench Thursday after missing the previous three games with a right hip injury, Cowley adds in a separate story. White has continued to serve as a vocal leader even when he hasn’t been able to play. “Because he has been on the bench, that’s helped in timeouts,” Donovan said. “He’s still stayed pretty active and pretty vocal, but I think he’s at a point and time in his career where he’s not afraid to speak up. It’s always about the team. It’s not about criticizing guys on what they should be doing. It’s more a good, positive vibe, but he’s even tried to do that while he’s been out these three games. But on the court that’s where you miss some of that, where he can talk some.”
  • Lonzo Ball, who hasn’t played since January 2022, posted a video of himself dunking twice in a row this week, tweets Julia Poe of The Chicago Tribune. The Bulls are optimistic that Ball can be ready for the start of next season if his injured left knee continues to improve, Poe adds in a full story.
  • There will be a market for DeRozan if the Bulls let him reach free agency, Johnson states in a mailbag column. DeRozan is eligible for a three-year extension worth $130MM through June 30, but Johnson suggests he might be willing to take roughly $70-74MM for two seasons, possibly with a team option for a third year.
  • There’s no reason to expect president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas or the rest of the front office to be replaced this summer, Johnson adds. He hears that management has given Karnisovas the freedom to proceed however he sees fit, even if that means a full rebuild, and says an active summer is likely upcoming.

Central Notes: Metu, Boeheim, Giannis, Jackson, White

Chimezie Metu, who was signed by the Pistons to a 10-day contract on Wednesday, appeared in their game against Indiana. Two-way guard Buddy Boeheim also made his season debut, becoming the 30th player the Pistons have used this season.

That ties the 2020/21 Rockets for the most players used in one season in league history, Mike Curtis of The Detroit News notes. “It’s definitely different,” Pistons guard Cade Cunningham said. “I just see it as an opportunity to grow as a player, as a leader, as a guard. Making sure we’re organized is a guard’s job, so I find it as an opportunity to get better. When we have all these new guys come in, I try to catch them up to speed to make it easier on them on the court.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo missed Wednesday’s showdown with Boston due to hamstring tightness. Coach Doc Rivers said it wasn’t a tough decision, Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets. “He’s feeling good, not great,” Rivers said. “Those things are something you don’t take a chance on, especially now, so it wasn’t very hard.”
  • Pacers forward Isaiah Jackson played 28 minutes at Detroit on Wednesday in his home state, one of his longest stints this season. Jackson was grateful to coach Rick Carlisle for giving him the opportunity for extended playing time with friends and family in the stands, according to Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star. “It means everything,” Jackson said. “I talked to him after the game. It’s something I feel like a lot of coaches don’t really do. I think it just shows the care that Rick has for us, everybody in general not just tonight. It means a lot to me and it means a lot to my family, too.”
  • Bulls guard Coby White practiced on Wednesday and is expected to play on Thursday against Houston. White said there was a silver lining to his absence, which was due to a hip strain. “It was good for me,” he told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “Obviously, I don’t want to miss games. But since it did happen and I was hurt, I wanted to take advantage of this time I had off and recover mentally, physically, emotionally spiritually. To me, I just tried to turn it into a positive.”

Central Notes: Dosunmu, White, Siakam, Middleton

Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu erupted for 34 points and nine assists against Washington on Saturday, as he continues to raise his potential ceiling of what he can do in his career, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Dosunmu, a third-year guard, is in the first season of a three-year, $21MM contract.

“I always try to be in attack mode,” he said after the Bulls’ 29-point victory. “That’s the growth in my game. Not playing timid, always attacking, whether it’s attacking and keeping my dribble and kicking it out or attacking to score or attacking to get Vooch a shot. I think the most dangerous player to guard is someone who is always in attack mode.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Dosunmu got extended playing time with Coby White sidelined. White missed his second straight game due to a hip injury but Bulls coach Billy Donovan expects to get his starting point guard back later this week, Johnson tweets. Chicago plays Houston on Thursday and Boston on Saturday.
  • Pascal Siakam delivered the type of performance on Saturday that the Pacers have been looking for since they acquired him from Toronto, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files notes. Siakam had 10 points in the second and fourth quarters of a victory over Brooklyn, finishing with 28 points and 11 rebounds. “He played a great overall game and defensively, he had his best game. It wasn’t even close,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “And this is what the top players have to do. These guys have to set the tone.”
  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton returned to action on Sunday after missing 16 games with an ankle injury. Middleton had 22 points and seven assists in Milwaukee’s 140-129 win over Phoenix. Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out the contest but coach Doc Rivers is looking forward to having his big three back on the court together. “I know having the other offensive guy really allows us to play both sides of the floor,” he said of Middleton. “I thought at times with Dame (Lillard) and Giannis, we got one-side oriented and didn’t move it. We’d swing it and it’d go back to the same side. With Khris on the other side at times, we can now develop going from a two-man game to a three-man game.”

Bulls Notes: Bitim, White, Phillips

Bulls rookie Onuralp Bitim has been a pleasant surprise, emerging in the rotation after having his contract converted from a two-way to a standard deal. He stood out with 10 points and six rebounds against Cleveland on Feb. 28 and scored 17 against Dallas on Monday. In a conversation with Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, Bitim said he tries to emulate the game of Manu Ginobili.

He’s a very rare talent, definitely,” Bitim said of Ginobili. “But I love his basketball IQ on offense, on defense, how he passed the ball, shot the ball, drove the ball. But, yeah, like you said, he’s definitely a rare talent.

Bitim is primarily known as a shooter, but he’s trying to stick in the league by showcasing other aspects of his game.

I was a very good scoring player in Europe and also a good pick-and-roll player,” Bitim said. “I know how to read defenses because that’s what they have been teaching us since a young age. That’s why I think a lot of European players in the NBA know how to read defenses and how to read the games because they’re teaching us at a young age. But right now, I’m trying to just help my team. Whatever they need. If I need to defend, I need to defend. If I need to shoot, I need to shoot. If I need to take a rebound, I need to do that.

Mayberry goes over a handful of other topics with Bitim, including his transition from Europe to the NBA and his early playing days.

We have more from the Bulls:

  • Coby White went through a tumultuous start to his career after being selected with the No. 7 pick in the 2019 draft, averaging 12.6 points per game through the first four years of his career, including a career-low 9.7 points last season. In need of a breakout season, White has delivered, increasing his scoring average to 19.5 PPG in his fifth year and becoming a frontrunner for Most Improved Player. SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell explores how White attacked this past summer, detailing his close work with trainer Johnny Stephene.
  • An MRI on White revealed a left hip strain, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) and the injury wasn’t as serious as it initially looked. According to Wojnarowski, White missed Thursday’s game, but could return to the lineup as soon as Saturday. NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson details how White, the NBA’s leader in minutes at 2,242, avoided a major injury and is day-to-day. “He was in some pretty significant pain right when it occurred and then he was in pain afterward,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “When you see a guy go down with that kind of force on top of him, you worry about this thing could be a lot worse. In some ways, we escaped a bullet there so to speak that it wasn’t something more significant or severe.
  • Rookie forward Julian Phillips missed Chicago’s Thursday game against the Clippers due to right foot soreness, according to Johnson (Twitter link). Phillips is averaging 4.1 points in his last eight games, including an 11-point outing against Dallas.