NBA Draft Prospects: Coby White

Coby White was one of the more unlikely one-and-done prospects but his offensive IQ, scoring ability, and speed could make him the best point guard in this draft.

Even though Coby White was a top 25 high school recruit, it was not expected that he would be a one-and-done player. He was clearly talented but there were enough holes that didn’t seem able to be corrected in such a short time span. After a successful freshman season at North Carolina though, White proved that he wasn’t just a draft-eligible player, but one of the three best point guards in this draft class.

White’s style of play fits perfectly with the system that North Carolina ran. His high energy, transition-oriented offense fed North Carolina’s eagerness to run. When they were forced to operate their half-court offense, White showed his prolific scoring ability and surgical execution of running the pick-and-roll. White’s offensive production and defensive activity allowed him to beat out older guards and lead North Carolina to a successful season.

Main Selling Point

White’s biggest selling point is his offensive acumen coupled with his size. White loves to push the ball and initiate an early offense, but where he really shined was executing the half-court offense. He doesn’t have a perfect shooting form but when he gets in a rhythm, he is deadly from behind the arc. Once defenses start to overplay his outside shot, he uses his size and quickness to blow past them and finish in a myriad of ways at the rim. Even when opponents focus to take him out of the game, White still has the vision to get his teammates easy baskets. From day one White will bring an unselfish, highly productive offensive game to the NBA.

Pick-and-roll

The pick-and-roll is one of the most common offensive sets in the NBA as modern offenses continue to spread the floor as much as possible and hunt for mismatches. Last season, teams ran the pick-and-roll on approximately 17.4 percent of their possessions. There are three teams in the top ten of this draft that have been linked heavily to drafting a point guard in the first round – Memphis, Phoenix, and Chicago – and all three of these teams were in the bottom half of the league in points per possession in pick-and-roll situations. Coby White’s ability to dissect a pick-and-roll makes him a very appealing top prospect.

Last season White recorded .756 points per possession as the ball handler in the pick-and-roll, per Synergy. This number on its own isn’t super impressive because it is greatly brought down by White taking shots off the dribble where he scores just .587 points per possession (we’ll dive into this a little later). Where White shines in the pick-and-roll though is when he attacks the rim or sets up his teammates to score. When White attacks the rim out of the pick-and-roll, he scores a stunning 1.405 points per possession.

Below we can see just how deadly White is in the pick-and-roll. White starts this play by initiating a high pick-and-roll with Luke Maye. Tre Jones is all over White, but as White gets to the screen, he uses a lightning-quick spin move to change directions and dispatch Jones. White lost Jones but then faced the challenge of a bigger defender in RJ Barrett. As Barrett switches onto White, he over commits. White recognizes this and uses Barrett’s momentum against him with a behind-the-back dribble to change direction and open a driving lane. All that is left is challenging Cam Reddish at the rim. White isn’t deterred at all and uses his size, full head of steam drive, and a double pump to avoid the defender and finish at the rim.

 

It doesn’t matter if White is using the pick, splitting defenders, or going away from the pick. When he can attack out of the pick-and-roll, he is extremely effective. As impressive as his scoring numbers are in these situations, his assist numbers are even more impressive. When White passes out of the pick-and-roll, North Carolina scored 1.407 points per possession (97th percentile). It was in these instances that White showed how impressive his skill set really is. He was able to show off his vision, passing instincts, and high basketball IQ.

Below is an example of how White can dance through defenders while always keeping his head up and options open. White recognizes immediately that Rui Hachimura hedges too aggressively and White splits the defenders. As White attacks the lane, Brandon Clarke is forced to leave his man and rotate to cut off White’s drive, leaving Maye open on the block. At first, White doesn’t have a clear passing angle to feed Maye, so he uses a deliberate jab step to freeze Clarke and then a quick sidestep to give him a clearer passing lane to set up the easy layup.

 

That clip showed White’s ability to improvise and keep plays alive, but below we get a better example of White’s impressive vision, touch, and timing. This play was set up for a lob to Garrison Brooks the whole time, but White does a great job of manipulating the defense. As White comes off the screen, he acts like he is going to drive and uses a strong jab step to really sell it and get Brooks’s defender to fully commit. White recognizes that he has drawn the double team and is just waiting for Brooks to run off the Cam Johnson screen. Once White sees that Johnson’s man doesn’t rotate to Brooks, he tosses a perfect lob over the defense.

 

When White is given the opportunity to be the decision maker out of the pick-and-roll he rarely makes a mistake. His scoring instincts lead to easy buckets and his passing ability is elite. From day one White will be able to run the pick-and-roll at a high level.

Scoring

The point guard position continues to move more towards a score first position and even though White is a great passer, he has no issues scoring in bunches. We covered White’s ability to score with the ball in his hand in the pick-and-roll already, but he also has the skill to contribute when he is away from the ball. White was one of the best players in the country last season scoring out of spot-up situations with 1.252 points per possession (95th percentile).

What makes White’s off-ball productivity so enticing is the versatility that he possesses. In spot-up situations, White can attack the defense in multiple ways. When he drove to the basket out of spot-up situations, he scored 1.312 points per possession (87th percentile). His quickness and size make it difficult for defenders to stay with him. He has great footwork and does a nice job of attacking closeouts. While White’s size and agility make him an effective driver, the aggressive closeouts he attacks are created by his outside shooting ability.

Last season White shot 35.3 percent from three but was deadly in catch-and-shoot situations where he scored 1.339 points per possession (93rd percentile). White doesn’t have perfect shooting mechanics, but they are consistent. His shooting form is fluid and he keeps everything connected but the one concern is his low release point. This doesn’t affect him much though when he is playing off the ball. In the below clips we can see how White compensates for this low release point with a very quick release. He also does a nice job of hopping into his shooting form. This allows him to keep consistent footwork and ensure that everything stays connected as he gets into his shot.

 

While his off-ball shooting is encouraging, the issues with his jump shot are evident when he tries to shoot off the dribble. It is in these situations where we see how opponents are easily able to affect White’s shot due to his low release point. When White is shooting off the dribble, he immediately becomes an inefficient scorer as he scored just .629 points per possession (27th percentile). These numbers are concerning because he will be expected to have the ball in his hands a lot and if he is unable to get to the rim against strong defenders, his offensive production could be limited.

Below we can see just how easily opponents are able to affect White’s shot off the dribble. White does a good job of initially losing his man on the screen but is cut off by the screener’s defender. He then crosses back for a pull-up three that isn’t an ideal shot, but it is late in the possession. White has the clear size advantage on his opponent but since his release is so low, the defender strongly contests the shot that results in a bad miss. If White had a higher release point, he would be less affected by a smaller defender that should have no business coming that close to blocking his shot.

 

Defense

One of the biggest concerns with White is his defensive ability. He can be frenetic and struggle to get through screens. Last season he struggled more than he should have when defending in the pick-and-roll where he allowed .774 points per possession (45th percentile). With the prominence of the pick-and-roll in the NBA, White will need to improve on his ability to read and fight through screens.

With his size, agility, and footwork, White should be a much more consistent defender who can switch onto multiple positions. When he is focused on just his man and not having to deal with screens, he is a much better defender and we can see him utilize his size and agility. When he defended in isolation situations, he allowed only .605 points per possession (75th percentile).

Below White shows how he can be an effective defender and is able to lock in on his man. The ball handler does a good job of driving to the opposite side of where White is forcing him, but White anticipates this and does a good job of turning his hips quickly. This allows him to reposition himself and stay in front of the ball handler. As his opponent drives, White absorbs the shoulder and does a great job of sliding his feet instead of crossing them. This demonstrates his high-level footwork and his ability to stay balanced throughout the play. As the opponent goes up for the shot, White utilizes his size by keeping his hands straight up and forcing the opponent to take a heavily contested shot.

 

Going Forward

Coby White quickly become one of my favorite players this college season. He demonstrated how he can easily operate an offense while playing with a lot of energy on both ends of the floor. His energy and footspeed regularly create scoring chances for himself and his teammates. He isn’t a perfect defender, but his size and speed make up for a lot of lapses. As he continues to get stronger and study film, he should be at least an average defender.

Whatever team is able to draft White could easily end up getting the best point guard in this draft. His basketball IQ will lead to a quick understanding of a team’s offense. If he goes to the Phoenix Suns, he will be able to create opportunities both on and off the ball. Devin Booker has taken over a lot of playmaking duties, out of necessity, and the addition of White and his off-ball skills won’t completely take the ball away from Booker. If White falls to the Chicago Bulls, he will be able to develop a nice pick-and-roll offense with their young big men while being able to drive-and-kick to shooters like Otto Porter or Zach LaVine.

If White grows to the level of an All-Star, I won’t be surprised but I also am not expecting it because of how deep the position has become. If he doesn’t, it shouldn’t be considered a failure either. White’s skill set should seamlessly translate to the NBA and his offensive production, speed, and basketball IQ will make a positive impact throughout his career.

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