Coby White: Defense
Our scouting grades represent the composite opinion of at least three different scouts. Each category is graded based on how we view a player’s current ability level relative to NBA players at the same position (guard, wing, forward or big). A grade of 1 indicates replacement level, a grade of 5 indicates NBA average, and a grade of 10 indicates historically elite. Our composite scouting notes help provide context for our grades.
Currently White is a solid on-ball defender whose technique leaves much to be desired. His defensive stance needs to be developed and his foot placement is poor, taking poor angles to fight through screens or recover to his man. Even so his high motor and quick hands help him to bother opposing guards, and he boasts above average height for a point guard. Based on his rate of growth he should become at minimum a good on-ball defender.
White’s combination of physical traits help and hurt him in this area, as his recovery speed and motor are balanced out by his short wingspan. He is able to stick with his man through screens thanks to his motor and great lateral quickness. When standing on the weak side he does a good job zoning up to guard two players, but his overall positioning is poor. This rears its head when he doubles down to provide help in the post; he is quick to race back and recover, but his positioning is poor and he is vulnerable to closeouts and secondary actions. His lack of length make his closeouts less effective as he can rarely bother the shot. Otherwise White has the tools to be a strong off-ball defender and he showed significant progress over the course of the season.
An analysis of White’s help defense at the beginning of the season would have been very poor, but the freshman guard has come a long way playing for coach Roy Williams this season. He is a willing help defender, able to show towards the action and recover quickly. With guards the most important parts of help defense are doubling down and rotating off switches and he has improved from “really bad” to workable in both of those categories. He's learning how to better time his help to actually impact the play, whereas early in the season his help was frequent but ineffective, and the timing left him out of position to guard his man on the catch. His quick hands allow him some impact in passing lanes, but his physical limitations and projected role should leave no expectation for him to make an impact at the rim.
Point guards at the NBA level generally fall into three categories when it comes to switching; are they an asset in a switching scheme (think Shaun Livingston or Jrue Holiday), could they hold up on infrequent switches, or will they simply be roasted every single time? White’s height and lower body strength mean he can fall into the second category, but his slight frame and short wingspan limit him from being anything more. He has not had many opportunities to demonstrate this as UNC rarely switches due to their personnel and scheme. When switched onto a 2 he should be able to hold his own, but wings or bigs would have a significant advantage. This applies to most point guards, though, so White is not at a significant disadvantage here.
High impact plays
There is no single impact play that White makes at a high rate, but he does contribute slightly in a number of ways. He has good hands and can disrupt dribbles and deflect balls by getting his hands in the passing lanes, and has enough leaping ability to block a shot occasionally. He is also an effective rebounder for a guard and can tip passes away from opponents in scramble situations even when he doesn’t gain the ball himself. His production in this category thus far is low, but given his growth in other defensive categories he may have some upside here as well.