• Matt Esposito

What Coby White Must Improve to Reach His Potential


There is a plethora of reasons to fall in love with Coby White’s game. The 6-foot-5-inch North Carolina product is strong enough to take advantage of smaller guards and quick enough to drive past big men. Play off of him and there are consequences. This season White has had ten games with at least four or more 3-pointers and six games with five or more. So, why hasn’t White solidified a position as this draft’s second best guard?

While he has showcased several qualities of a future first round pick, I have some serious reservations about White’s handle. Primarily, his lack of command with the ball inhibits his pick and roll potential.

Reviewing his game tape only accentuates this concern. Let’s start by checking out one of White’s better performances where he went six of 11 from beyond the arc and handed out five assists. Here, forward Luke Maye initiates the pick and roll.

White drives right while keeping his eyes focused directly on the court in front of him. Next, he crosses his defender in what seems to be a demonstration of good ball-handling. Do not be fooled. White can hit a crossover but struggles with functional handle. Additionally, he never even looked at the open Maye.

This crossover allows White to switch directions and drive left. What you do not see is White failing to control the ball on the drive, allowing the next defender to catch up to him. He is forced to stare down at the ball while attempting to gain a better handle on it and in doing so misses an open Cam Johnson.

Lastly, White never got himself into a position to go up strong with a left hand he is comfortable using. His defender gets handsy and bails him out with a foul. Regardless, a better command of the ball would have resulted in an easy assist and dunk from Johnson. Watch the full clip here.

A game against Louisville showed more of the same. This time White struggled to get anything going offensively. The Cardinals strategically clamped down on Carolina’s prolific transition offense. This forced White and the Tar Heels to play more half-court offense.

On this possession, White and Maye combine again with the shot clock winding down. White splits the defense and takes on center Steven Enoch. Take note of this split, it is one of White’s favorite moves and arguably the most frustrating to watch.

Again, you could be tricked into thinking this shows impressive handle. I have seen White try this split several times and it often results in a bad decision or turnover. He has a tendency to recklessly burst through the two defenders without maintaining the balance and composure to complete the play.

Need proof? Take a glimpse of what happens next during his drive. White gets spooked by help defender Darius Perry despite Perry being three inches shorter than him. This next angle of the play shows him bouncing the ball off of his head and into an unforced turnover. What is the purpose of splitting defenders if you do not have the ball-control to finish the play?

Here is another example of White going back to his favorite move during a pick and roll. He does so successfully but it leads to trouble once again.

White barely squeezes past the two. He has to recollect his loose handle and in doing so both eyes are concentrated on the ball instead of open teammates. Still, White’s scoring prowess is dangerous enough to cause multiple defenders to gravitate towards the paint.

White’s lower body looks reminiscent of other NBA players when they split defenders but his eyes are down. When he gathers both his posture and dribble he looks back up and decides to pass to Kenny Williams probably because he is the first person he sees.

Having to regain his handle causes two mistakes. White never feels the help defender coming from behind him who tips the pass and causes a steal. Secondly, White whiffs on a chance to hit Maye as he sags to the 3-point line.

White has decent vision but having to recollect his handle and balance often disallows him from taking advantage of it. Too often he misses open teammates. This area must be improved but there is still reason to be optimistic.

White was a combo guard during his Team CP3 days and Carolina’s fastbreaking offense left his point guard skills underdeveloped. Hopefully White’s next team will either play him as a combo guard or give him the space to grow as a floor general. Regardless, whichever team drafts White must have a clear positional plan for him or risk him never reaching his reasonably high ceiling.

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