Palestra Back 2019 NBA Draft Guide – Coby White

Coby White

#4 on the PB Big Board

G – North Carolina

Freshman, 6’5, 185 pounds

What he does well:

Scoring while leading the offense

Because college basketball players are less skilled than those in the NBA, the collegiate game naturally has certain limitations. There are things that are commonplace in the pros that aren’t seen as often in NCAA games.

Pull-up threes. Transition scoring. A reliance on the pick-and-roll.

Those items, incidentally, are what Coby White did well in his one season at North Carolina. He’s a blur with the ball in his hands, making him the perfect lead guard in Roy Williams run-and-gun system. A Ty Lawson reincarnated, essentially.

Yet unlike most speed demons, White has the skills to make the most of his speed.

As a freshman, he shot 35.3 percent from beyond the arc and showcased an impressive stroke, sinking 80 percent from the foul line. Many of his outside shots came off the dribble or while on the move, as opposed to the stand-still jumpers many other strong shooters are accustomed to taking.

This season, 28 percent of his long range makes were unassisted, comparing favorably to other point guards in this class:

Jerome relied on his pull-up, to lacking athleticism and driving ability. Edwards chucked more than his fair share of deep balls. White used his step backs and pull-ups as a weapon, to open up the rest of his game. His shooting allowed Coby White to knife through any defense, finding his way all the way to the cup.

Speed and Size

This sounds straight-forward, and repetitive of the last point, yet White’s elite agility is what makes him tick. Every other piece of his game is built off of his ability to get to a spot quicker than his opponent. The fact that he’s a legitimate 6-foot-5 is an added bonus.

He averaged 4.1 assists last season, without possessing high end court vision. White sees the floor well enough to lead an offense as point guard, but at times, it’s like he has a head start. Thanks to his ability to beat his man off the dribble or get the ball into the paint, he’s able to draw more attention or suck help defenders away from their assignments. This leaves White’s teammates open and he’s keen on finding them for an open look. His height, especially compared to the collegiate point guards that covered him, made those passes easier to see and complete.

Coby White is a strong defender, thanks to his physical gifts. He didn’t show the kind of defensive IQ that would lead you to believe he can be an all-league type defender, yet he has the tools to more than hold his own on that end of the court. Case in point: he posted just 2.0 steals per 100 possessions last season. While he may not be a liability, that is far lower than you’d expect from a player with his physical profile.

Where he struggles:

Turnovers and decision making

Leading an offense as high octane as the one Roy Williams preaches at Carolina can be risky, especially for a freshman. For context, I pulled numbers from some of Williams’ best point guards, from their first season “quarterbacking” the Tar Heels.

White’s numbers compare favorably in certain regards. He was not as turnover prone as some of his predecessors, yet also lacked the vision to truly open up the offense for his teammates.

The Heels ran a constant barrage of screens for White and at times, he knew exactly how to attack. Other times, he seemed too intent on getting a shot for himself or forcing the action, rather than feeling for what the defense would allow.

To be a major factor at the next level, White will need to develop as a creator and a decision maker. If he doesn’t, his game feels more suited to being a secondary creator, either off the bench or alongside a wing player who initiates the offense.

How his game translates to the NBA:

Coby White is a prototypical guard for today’s league. In the hands of the right coach, his size and speed will allow him to switch defensively along the perimeter and attack mismatches offensively.

White won’t have the ball in his hands as often as he did at North Carolina when drafted by almost any NBA team, so he’ll need to improve his off ball skills. I’d love to see him grow as a cutter and shooter off of screens, much like Landry Shamet did coming from a point guard role in college to off ball shooter in the NBA. If White can shoot 40 percent on catch-and-shoot threes early in his career, he’ll be on the floor a lot.

Comparable to:

  • Alternate Universe Chris Paul who isn’t as good a passer but a stronger scorer
  • Young Kyle Lowry
  • 6-foot-5 Isaiah Thomas (the tiny one on the Nuggets, not Bad Boys Isiah)

Next up: #5 Darius Garland


Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and senior writer at He has also contributed to, Rush The Court, Larry Brown Sports, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. You can find every post from this blog on Twitter by following @PalestraBack.

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