Before the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball season began this year, I declared that a member of the 2018 class was going to be the best first-year player at their position that the team has had in years. There is no doubt in my mind that the first month and a half of the season made me question whether or not this wild claim would ring true, Thankfully, things have been on the upswing as of late, and freshman point guard Coby White has suddenly become one of the most important players on Carolina’s roster. In fact, he has become so important that NBA analysts are paying closer and closer attention to him.
Back in November, Coby White’s name showed up on some draft boards, but he wasn’t showing up enough to really earn a great deal of attention. Here is where Coby White was positioned on some of the top mock draft boards:
NBADraft.net - Undrafted
ESPN - Undrafted
SI.com - 37th
The Athletic - 27th
SN - 27th
Bleacher Report - 18th
Overall aggregate draft position via Hoops Hype - 34th
Fast forward to February, and things have looked quite a bit different as we make our way through conference play. Here is Coby White’s updated draft position as of January 22nd. Some of these have changed since then, and those spots will be noted next to the January 22nd update.
NBADraft.net - 27th (25th as of Feb. 6th)
ESPN - 26th
SI.com - 18th (25th as of Feb 6th)
The Athletic - 17th
Bleacher Report - 25th
Overall aggregate draft position via Hoops Hype - 20th
As we can see, Coby White’s draft stock has gone up significantly since the beginning of the season. While SI.com does have him listed a bit lower than they did in January, White has grown in Roy Williams’ system and has become the dangerous, fast, and deadly player that we expected him to be coming out of high school. Perhaps more importantly, he is looking more and more like a true point guard, which is what this team desperately needs if they want to make some noise during the NCAA Tournament.
So far this season, Coby White is averaging 15.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. Out of the 22 games played this season, White has only failed to scored in double figures six times, despite coming close to crossing the threshold in each game except for the first game against Louisville. His defense has improved more and more as the season progresses, and has earned the defensive player of the game award from Roy Williams multiple times. The biggest blemish in his game has been turnovers, as it has been with other members of the team, but he has managed to get the issue under control as of late — ever since the loss to Louisville, White has not turned the ball over more than three times per game. It is still more turnovers than Roy Williams would like, but he is also creating more than enough plays to balance things out.
Given that Coby White is getting more attention from analysts, it’s natural to wonder what this means for White as well as UNC in general following this season. While I will not attempt to make a prediction as to whether he enters the NBA Draft or if he stays, it should be pointed out that being projected to go in the bottom half of the first round puts players in a very tough position. Anybody that is projected as an NBA lottery pick by the time April rolls around almost always enters the draft in order to capitalize on their position as well as how much money they’ll earn.
In White’s position, however, arguments can be made for why he should stay as well as why he should go. He’s likely going to enter the draft as a point guard rather than combo guard or shooting guard, and so one more year in Roy Williams’ system would give him a great chance to go into the draft next year as a potential lottery pick. However, getting drafted anywhere in the first round is not a bad thing, and it is understandable that some players want to start earning money as soon as they can.
Should Coby White’s draft stock continue to rise and he declares for the draft, one would have to believe that the door is left further open for 2019 target and projected 2020 NBA lottery draft pick Cole Anthony. Currently North Carolina and Oregon are the two frontrunners for the dynamic guard, and White’s exit could be the extra shove that lands Roy Williams his second top-five prospect in a row. Truthfully, Coby White’s absence shouldn’t be needed to land Anthony, as the absence of Kenny Williams and Cameron Johnson will leave a hole at the shooting guard spot. Implementing a rotation with Coby White, Cole Anthony, Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, and Armando Bacot would be a lot of fun to witness, as three point guards being on the floor at once has dangerous potential.
Coming off of a 21-point performance against NC State, Coby White is about to face even more adversity as the Heels get into the tougher part of their ACC schedule. As long as he continues to improve in the coming weeks, there’s a good chance that we may only see his draft stock increase. Either way, the NBA Draft workouts are a few months away, and right now the only thing on White’s mind is getting this team back to the Final Four and contending for a national championship.