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Draft Radar Part Three: Coby White

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Putting the microscope over the North Carolina product

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

A season of drama, misery, and injuries has finally come to a conclusion.

It’s easy to dwell on what was in many ways a season from hell, but it’s a fruitless task. If you want to make better use of your time you’re better off forgetting about the Wolves for now and watching a postseason that has already had enough ups and downs to make every hoop head’s mouth water.

We know you’re not going to just forget about the team we all, at times, hate to love, though. Alas, it’s time to really dig into some pre-draft analysis. With Minnesota slotted into the 10th pick of the draft, there should be some decent talent around to help this team improve next season.

So far we have already taken a look at Darius Garland and Brandon Clarke, two prospects who could very well fall to that 10th spot. This time around it’s freshman Coby White’s turn under the spotlight. The afro-haired excitement machine made major strides all season in North Carolina, and has been a name frequented around the Timberwolves Twitter circles.

Let’s take a look.

Profile

Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Draft Age: 19

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 185 lbs

College Stats: 28.5 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.1 APG, 42.3% FG, 35.2% 3PT

Per-36 Minute Stats: 20.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.2 APG

Strengths

  • Physical Dominance

Before you even start to delve into Coby White’s tantalizing skill set, his size and speed immediately catch the eye. The physical gifts he was born with will undoubtedly help his stock rise throughout the pre-draft process, and they help his already budding game excel, too.

Standing at 6-foot-5 he towers over a lot of lead guards, putting that advantage to good use. He can take his direct opponents to the cup and finish over them with relative ease and can leverage his height to launch jumpers effectively with defenders bearing down on him.

The most glaring way White exploits his height mismatch is by seeing over defenders and finding the right man. He isn’t the most dynamic playmaker in his class, but his elevated line of sight gives him a shot to be a reliable table-setter at the next level.

The former Tarheel’s size might be a rousing physical trait, but it’s the way he glides across the court like a cheetah hunting its prey that will immediately make a splash in the NBA.

After a rebound or live-ball turnover, White bursts into the open floor like he was shot out of a cannon. He even puts immediate pressure on the opposition of made baskets, jetting over the timeline and refusing to give defenders a breather. In half court sets, it’s a death sentence to allow him to back up and gain a head of steam, he is simply too much to handle when he is barreling downhill at the basket.

In this manner, White has some shades of Russell Westbrook, John Wall, or De’Aaron Fox about him. He is simply a menace for defenders who aren’t capable of matching him step for step.

Both top seeds this season (Milwaukee and Golden State) ranked in the top 10 in pace of play per game, so having a ball handler who can push the issue consistently can really boon an offense.

  • Bucket Getter

In the age of basketball where lockdown defenders, spot-up shooting geniuses, and elite rim runners garner so much attention, it’s easy to forget just how valuable a elite shot creators and finishers can be. White fits that mold to perfection.

We’ve already dug into his ability to use his physical presence to get points in transition and half court sets, but he also packs a multi-tiered toolbox when it comes to putting the ball in the goal.

Plays like the one below, where he spins around one defender before using the round-the-back dribble to beat another and finishing with a double-clutch layup, are considered extraordinary for the average player. White pulls them off at an unusually high rate, though.

That kind of play brings a smile to the face of any basketball fan. However, it’s not just his ability to weave through traffic and finish at the rim, White creates separation with a tight handle inside the arc for silky looking jumpers, and uses his quick release to fire off triples and connect at a good (not great) clip.

All round the freshman is just a load for defenders to handle. His unwavering confidence is an admirable trait and often sees him work his way into games even if he starts the night with a cold hand.

When it comes to getting a bucket, Coby White is going to be that man for quite a while.

  • Defensive Potential

Potential is a dangerous word. There have been plenty of players who have entered the league with it in spades that have never become the player they were touted to be, so using it to describe Coby White’s defensive game should come with trepidation.

Even with that in mind, there is still plenty to be excited about with the freshman’s ability to impact the game on that end of the floor. His size and lateral quickness are the starting points here like they are with the majority of his game, but there are some real instincts there that should only grow as he develops over the years.

First and foremost he wants to defend. So many young studs these days are satisfied with their offensive output and rest on their laurels when it comes time to defend, White doesn’t fall into that category.

That energy is one of the reasons he posted some fairly impressive advanced metrics in his one year at North Carolina. His .068 defensive win shares per 40 minutes and 98.9 defensive rating aren’t elite, but they are nothing to scoff at, and his +2.3 defensive box plus/minus is better than Ja Morant and Darius Garland — his two closest competitors at the point guard position in this draft class.

His ability to fight through screens and stay in the play is something to admire. With a slender build, it would be easy for White to get picked off and force his teammates to clean up his mess. Instead, he makes a concerted effort to make himself skinny and slide through any gap the screener gives him and uses that size and speed to get back in front of his man and pester them.

When ball handlers do give him a sniff, White is capable of swiping balls away and explode into the open court. His 1.1 steals per game aren’t top-tier numbers, but they do provide considerable hope that he will be able to keep opposing ball handlers honest in the NBA.

Like a lot of youngsters, White can be caught ball watching and not focusing on his man. He can occasionally make up for a slow start with his blistering speed, but it’s not good practice to give opponents a head start on cuts due to lack of concentration.

If he can polish up some of those errors, there is no reason White can’t be a really savvy defender in the future.

Weaknesses

  • Shot Selection

Coby White’s questionable shot selection should not be confused with his ability to get buckets. While he is capable of scoring in bunches from all three levels, sometimes the shots he settles for are the only thing in his way.

Even on a North Carolina team that featured two other proficient scorers in Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson, White was still prone to overdoing things and trying to make a field goal out of nothing instead of just keeping the ball moving. There was plenty of times where his sheer talent won out and he was able to covert, but that will almost certainly change when he faces the hustle and bustle of NBA defenders.

Sometimes it’s pull-up triples, other times it’s uncalled for mid-range jumpers and even with his jaw-dropping ability to jet to the rack, he still tries to finish some layups that would drive coaches crazy.

It’s entirely possible that his next coach will shorten White’s leash and drill those brain fades out of him. However, if he can’t shake those bad shots off, it will significantly lower his ceiling as a player.

  • Position in the NBA

This is less of a weakness and more of a question mark. Nonetheless, Coby White seems caught in that weird space between positions, which may or may not hamper him in the future.

We have seen plenty of combo guards enter the league and excel, and there is not a ton of evidence to suggest the 19-year-old won’t be able to make that same leap. However, if he enters the league as a high-minute point guard, he may find himself struggling to fully adapt to one of the most complicated roles in basketball.

In the end, he may be more comfortable in a sixth man role as someone who can come off the pine and slot into either guard position. Although as a certain lottery pick, one would hope he could find himself a legit role as a starter. In order to do that, he will likely have to improve as a playmaker and decision maker or make the most of his defensive potential.

Players like Eric Bledsoe, D’Angelo Russell, and Jamal Murray should be the blueprint for the former Tarheel, and there is no reason he can’t reach or surpass those levels. It won’t happen overnight, though.

Fit in Minnesota

With Jeff Teague seemingly fighting a constant battle between inconsistency and injury and Tyus Jones — even he even stays around this summer — providing a completely contrasting skill set, it would make sense for Minnesota to nab another lead guard.

Even if Jones and Teague are healthy and eating up those point guard minutes, White can easily slot into the Derrick Rose role as a combo guard off the bench. Like Rose, he can provide ball handling, speed and athleticism, and a scoring punch, with the added bonus of a youthful body that isn’t constantly on the verge of breaking down.

Minnesota ranked 25th in 3-pointers made and attempted in the Ryan Saunders era, so White’s willingness to shoot triples (6.7 per game) with just a sliver of space would be greatly appreciated. Even if he doesn’t match his 35.5 percent clip from his one-and-done season in North Carolina, just getting up more 3’s would go a long way for the Wolves.

Defensively, Minnesota was a disaster this season. They finished the season 24th in defensive rating and only ranked above the lowly Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference. With Defensive Player of the Year caliber Robert Covington healthy, Josh Okogie adding a full summer under his belt, and Karl-Anthony Towns continuing his upward trajectory, that will likely improve next season. If they can throw in the size length and potential of White, they might be able to actually stop some teams next season.

The downside of White in the Twin Cities would be that his aforementioned shot selection is already a problem for the team. Andrew Wiggins is known for his head-scratching decisions, they don’t need another high-volume shooter taking silly shots.

Even with that red flag, White should be one of the top three names on Minnesota’s big board. He plays in a position of need, has multiple skills that should translate instantly, and a bunch of room to still grow.