Coby White: Role

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Strengths

  • Above average size for his position

  • Strong shooter on- and off-ball

  • Strong motor on offense and defense

  • Incredible top speed and a love for transition

  • Excellent growth trajectory suggests future development

Weaknesses

  • Short wingspan for his height

  • Poor decision-making at times as a playmaker

  • Relatively high turnover rate

  • Does not make many impact plays on defense

Offensive role at North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the fastest offenses in the nation, and that boils down to the whirlwind guard with the distinct hairdo, Coby White. Originally expected to split time at either backup guard spot, White became the starter at point guard and never looked back. He excels in transition, pushing the ball up the court whether the opposing team scored or not. He is unafraid to pull-up himself, attack the rim or hit an open teammate. His passing vision is decent but he struggles to make advanced reads as he slices into the paint. When he does not have the ball he is a strong shooter off-the-catch, but does not tend to generate much offense off of cuts nor crash the offensive glass. He is prone to turning the ball over due to hurried or telegraphed passes.

Offensive role projection -

Initiator, off-ball threat

At the next level White projects as a lead guard who can play alongside another ball-handler, be that in two-guard lineups or with a non-traditional ball-handler (Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic, etc). His passing ability needs work, but his combination of speed, decisiveness and motor should all help paper over that weakness until it comes around. He is a solid shooter whose mechanics suggest he will only improve upon his college numbers, and he excels as a catch-and-shoot player. When defenders close out he has the utility to attack and get into the paint to finish or make a play. He has shown tremendous growth in numerous areas over the course of his time at North Carolina, which suggests he will continue that growth as a pro. His greatest strength at the next level will be pushing the ball in transition, and the right context could help him to excel early.

Defensive role at North Carolina

White’s above-average size at the point has served him well guarding opposing point guards, and he has even been able to guard 2s at times for the Tar Heels. He has great lateral agility which helps him to stay in front of opposing ball-handlers, and his motor helps him to fight over screens and recover when he falls behind. His limited length and still-developing defensive awareness limit the impact plays he makes on defense, but otherwise he does a good job off-ball of staying with his man and recovering after he doubles down, a common action for Carolina’s defense. Primarily due to scheme and personnel White never really switched, and his current lack of core strength and short length would suggest he is not an untapped gem in this area.

Defensive role projection -

Point-of-attack defender

White will need to almost exclusively be deployed as a point guard defender, although depending on the matchup he could defend 2s for his NBA team. His great lateral agility will serve him well as the players around him speed up, but he needs to add strength to not get knocked off his spot. His lack of strength will make him a liability on switches as well, although his decent height means he could play some 2-guard as needed. He gets back in transition and has decent instincts to guard the right man, all of which should translate well to the next level. Off-ball he has good recovery speed but needs to improve his footwork and positioning to ensure he doesn’t get blown by on closeouts. His frame should be able to add strength without sacrificing speed and agility, which could help his explosion in contesting shots and his ability to stand his ground against stronger players.

Why White will earn minutes as a rookie

The Coby White who began the season at North Carolina probably would not have earned many minutes at the NBA level, but the version we’ve seen in February and March absolutely will. He has shown tremendous growth as a lead guard, and could step in as the backup point guard on many teams in the league. His shooting ability is already tested out to the NBA 3-point line and every NBA team needs shooters, so at worst he can be a rotation guard to come in and spot-up. Defensively he can hang with most point guards already, and his high motor should help him compete even when he is at a strength and experience disadvantage.

Why White’s minutes may be limited as a rookie

White still has plenty of growth needed to run the point full-time for an NBA team, specifically in the playmaking department. While he has the speed and drive to get into the paint he is not a high-level decision-maker once he gets there; if his first read is not there he is prone to taking a bad shot or throwing the ball away. That is the fast track to the bench for many NBA coaches, especially on a team with hopes of competing. While he has a solid shot his shot selection is still poor, something that will need to be coached up and which will not be tolerated when he goes from a top-3 option at Carolina to lower on the totem pole. Defensively he needs to add strength to hold up against NBA athletes and will need to tighten up his positioning, footwork and overall team defense. Long-term he projects to be a player who earns plenty of minutes, but early on he may have to develop from the bench.