As the NBA’s evolution toward positionless basketball continues, North Carolina’s Coby White puts himself into a specific box.
“I’m a point guard.”
The Tar Heel freshman made the role-defining comment to reporters at last month’s NBA Combine in Chicago. The statement came across as more personal focus than a defiant attitude.
White entered college after becoming the all-time leading high school scorer in North Carolina history. He left Chapel Hill after setting toppling Michael Jordan’s freshman scoring record -- and with facilitating skills still considered a work in progress.
The promise is evident. Typically mock draft slotting sends White to teams (Suns at 6, Bulls at 7) seeking point guard help.
“[Like] a lot of point guards in the league, I’m a scoring point guard,” White told NBC Sports Washington in Chicago. “At Carolina, I came in as just a scorer. Coach (Roy) Williams helped me become more of a point guard. My playmaking and facilitating got better as the year went on.”
That the 6-foot-5 White is definitely a point guard isn’t a universal belief, however. ESPN’s rankings list him as a shooting guard. The very first words under the strengths (“Energetic scoring guard who can fill it up in a hurry”) and weaknesses (“Wild decision-maker”) sections highlight the 19-year-old’s current game.
What matters most are the opinions from league executives, especially those whose teams are selecting in the 5-9 range in the June 20 NBA Draft. That includes the Wizards, who own the ninth selection.
The current consensus has White off the board before Washington’s turn, though the Wizards will meet with the UNC product this week at the team’s practice facility. That’s logical -- at the Combine White estimated his draft range extended from 5 to 9 -- but also goes against recent reporting.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the guard -- oops, point guard -- skipped the second day of the Combine because he received a draft “promise” from a team with a top-6 selection. Yet White is slated to visit Washington this week.
The need for the Wizards is evident. Starting point guard John Wall will miss the majority if not all of the entire 2019-20 season following surgery on his ruptured left Achilles in February. The team’s other point guards, Tomas Satoransky and Chasson Randle, are free agents.
Washington’s offense lost the speed element without Wall. Nobody can state definitively how close the 5-time All-Star remains to his physical prime upon returning.
White, who averaged 16.1 points and 4.1 assists last season, offers burst with the ball. He is also working on that change-up. “I’ve been working on that a lot in workouts the past month,” White said of changing pace at the Combine. “Use my speed to my advantage, let the game come to me and it’ll slow it down for me.”
What’s interesting about White for the Wizards, beyond the talent and scoring, is the potential long-term fit with Wall and Bradley Beal. Not only could he contribute next season on-ball, but his size and shooting -- White ranked among college basketball’s top 3-point catch-and-shoot threats last season according to ESPN -- makes for an interesting pairing with Wall.
“I think it would be a great experience for me to play with players of that caliber,” White told NBC Sports Washington of possibly joining forces with Beal and Wall.
The Wizards’ roster situation is such that talent at any position trumps need. That White’s game suggests more than just a singular role makes him appealing in Washington.
- The Wizards plan on bringing 10-12 players in for workouts with the ninth selection in mind. That’s a large pool. Some of that is simply learning more about players who might be available in free agency or trades in the future. It also speaks to the uncertainty with this selection. Most public big boards have the same top eight prospects in varying order, while the gap between players 9-20 or so isn’t considered significant.
Read the names on the Big Board below for the likely candidates stopping by. Considering the wide net cast, who doesn’t stop by Ward 8 may ultimately become more interesting than who does.
- France’s Sekou Doumbouya is expected to meet with the Wizards in the coming days and perhaps as soon as this weekend, according to a source. Doumbouya would make plenty of sense for Washington if the immediate plan is patience over playoffs. The raw 6-foot-9 forward is the youngest player in the 2019 class and needs more seasoning before turning into a primary contributor. Doumbouya’s length and defensive versatility mesh perfectly with the modern NBA. Since the other expected options at 9 are also risk-reward types, going for this kid isn’t as scary compared to other drafts.
- Keep in mind with these pre-draft workouts that the Wizards’ two two-way player slots are empty. They gave Jordan McRae an NBA contract and released Devin Robinson. It’s also rather conceivable an undrafted free agent makes the NBA roster considering the number of open spots and the need to add inexpensive contracts.
2019 NBA Draft Big Board
5. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
6. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
7. Coby White, SG, UNC
10. Nassir Little, SF, UNC
11. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
14. Goga Bitadze, C, International
15. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
16. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
17. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
19. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky
20. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Va. Tech
22. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
23. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee
24. Cameron Johnson, PF, UNC
26. Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Fla. St.
27. Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia
28. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue
29. Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia
30. KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
31. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas
32. Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee
33. Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State
34. Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State
35. Darius Bazley, SF, USA
36. Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova
37. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont
38. Jalen Lecque, SG, USA
39. Louis King, SF, Oregon
40. Isaiah Roby, SF, Nebraska
41. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU
42. Jordan Bone, PG, Tennessee
43. Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington
44. Naz Reid, C, LSU
45. Brian Bowen, PF, USA
46. Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State
47. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
48. Ky Bowman, PG, Boston College
49. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. John’s
50. Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn
51. Zach Norvell, SG, Gonzaga
52. Deividas Sirvydis, F, Lithuania
53. Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest
54. Charles Matthews, SF, Michigan
55. Miye Oni, F, Yale
56. Ignas Brazdeikis, PF, Michigan
57. Terence Davis, SG, Mississippi
58. DaQuan Jeffries, SG, Tulsa
59. Cody Martin, SG, Nevada
60. Yovel Zoosman, F. Israel
Others: Quinndary Weatherspoon, SG, Miss. St; Dedric Lawson, F. Kansas; Jordan Poole, SG, Michigan; Marcos Louzada Silva, SF, Brazil; Terance Mann, G, Florida State
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