Coby White has been one of the standout freshmen in college basketball this season. The guard has been an important part of North Carolina’s season, leading them to a top five national ranking and likely to a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
White’s scoring ability is his greatest asset, but he has also shown that he is an adequate playmaker and capable defender as well. As the college basketball season draws to a close and the NBA draft approaches, White finds himself with an opportunity to significantly improve his draft stock. Several teams will have him ranked near the top of their draft boards, but which ones will he fit best?
Let’s take a look.
5. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have struggled in the second half of this season, and a large reason for their poor form is a lack of outside shooting. White would be an instant improvement in that area. White is second on the Tar Heels in 3 point percentage, and also takes the most on the team per game.
He recently broke Rashad McCants’ school record for threes made by a freshman (75), and did so in five fewer games. The Lakers are currently second to last in the NBA when it comes to field goal percentage, and they’re also in the bottom ten for three pointers made and attempted. In a league where teams like the Warriors, Bucks and Rockets are finding success embracing the long distance shot, White would be a significant boost for the Lakers even as a rookie.
4. Charlotte Hornets
Hornets owner Michael Jordan hasn’t shied away from drafting players who excelled at big name colleges. He’s taken names like Frank Kaminsky, Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist immediately after they made deep tournament runs with some of the most notable programs in college basketball. That strategy has had mixed results, but taking White in this year’s draft is one that would likely pay off for Jordan and the Hornets.
Even if the Hornets keep impending free agent point guard Kemba Walker, they lack a true second option. At 6’5″, Coby White is a perfect choice to take over as a guard to complement Walker. The Hornets attempted to remedy this issue by taking Malik Monk in 2017, but the Kentucky star has yet to truly find his footing as an NBA scorer.
White is already a much more polished offensive player than Monk was at this stage of his career, even if White can be turnover prone at times. Still, his shot selection is an improvement over Monk’s, and 16.3 points per game are second on a very good Carolina team.
3. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are dead last in the NBA in points per game this season. That means they need an immediate boost in scoring, a problem they can solve if they take Coby White in the draft. White has proven that he can score efficiently against elite competition, with some of his biggest games of the season coming against teams like Syracuse (34 points, 6-11 from 3), Texas (33 points, 7-10 from 3), and Virginia Tech (27 points, 5-11 from 3).
Even as a rookie, White would be one of the most capable scorers on the Memphis roster. Since the Grizzlies are still in the early stages of a total rebuild, it’s likely that White would be given a green light more often than not. As we’ve seen with Trae Young and the Hawks this season, giving a proficient shooter a license to let fly can produce some incredibly positive results.
White wouldn’t be able to solve all of Memphis’ problems, but he would be a welcome addition to a team in desperate need of a scoring threat.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have been one of the best teams in the NBA this season, but they don’t have the depth of some of the other contenders. Outside of Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel, they don’t have too many players in the second unit who are able to affect a game singlehandedly.
Coby White would change that.
White has shown an ability to get hot and take over a game, something that the Thunder have needed at times this season. That responsibility has generally fallen into the very able hands of Paul George, who is a deserving MVP candidate this season. However, the Thunder have struggled on nights when both George and Russell Westbrook have been off.
Adding White could be a fix for a problem the Thunder have had this season in Russell Westbrook’s poor outside shooting. A lineup with Westbrook and White on the floor would give the Thunder outside shooting without having to sacrifice everything else that Westbrook brings at an elite level.
1. New Orleans Pelicans
If the Pelicans can find a way to keep Anthony Davis, adding Coby White to their roster seems like a smart move. They’ve struggled with finding wing players who are able to contribute in meaningful ways for the past several years, and White is a player who can make a difference right away.
He plays mostly as a primary guard for North Carolina, but his size makes him perfect for the NBA 2, a position the Pelicans need help in. Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle are clear second and third options, respectively, but White can add a scoring spark that the other two may not be able to provide. He would likely be a spot up, long range shooter for the Pelicans, but given his ability to shoot from outside this season, that shouldn’t be a role he’ll have much trouble adjusting to.
Should the Pelicans not keep Davis around, White would be a very good piece to have for the now-rebuilding team.