Can Coby White translate his game to create one of the most explosive backcourts in the NBA?

Coby White, taken as the 7th pick in the draft, surpassed Michael Jordan's North Carolina freshman scoring record
by Sam Smith
Kia Bulls Draft Coverage 2019

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New Bulls draft pick Coby White is excited to join the Bulls and compete for a spot at point guard

How about Earl Monroe and Archie Clark with the Baltimore Bullets? OK, let's move to this century. Jason Richardson and Monta Ellis with the Golden State Warriors. What if you paired John Wall with Leandro Barbosa? Or Jason Kidd with Tony Parker?

Derrick Rose with Russell Westbrook?

No one is ever going to project that. But the Bulls with Thursday's NBA draft selection of North Carolina's nimble and explosive scoring guard Coby White can begin to dream about one of the fastest and highest scoring backcourts in the NBA with the fleet White's potential to combine with the super athletic Zach LaVine.

There's plenty of time before the 19-year-old who surpassed Michael Jordan's North Carolina freshman scoring record to vie for a starting spot in the Bulls backcourt. Incumbent Kris Dunn promises to stake his claim to the job. But White in a telephone interview with Chicago media after the draft said he's anxious to compete with Dunn, with whom he shares the same representation.

"I've been competing all my life within the team," said White, who impressed local media with his candor and verbosity in about a 10-minute conversation from Brooklyn. "When I got to (North Carolina), I had to compete for a starting spot. I had to compete for a point guard spot. Competing is in my blood. It's in my DNA. We're going to go at it for sure. Kris Dunn is a great, great player. I can't wait to get there and get to work. I think it's really neat, really cool we have the same agent.

Coby White hugs and celebrates after hearing his name called in the 2019 NBA Draft

"Size at my position will translate well in the league," said the 6-5 human race car. "My speed, getting up and down the court, my shotmaking ability and ability to create my own shot and my ability to playmake (are strengths). I think one thing I need to work on is not going the same speed the whole game, using my change of speed more. I've been working on that a good amount since I've been training in California. I've been getting better at it. I'm still not where I need to be obviously."

The Bulls in the second round of the draft with the 38th pick selected Arkansas center Daniel Gafford, a 6-11 athletic shot blocker and dunker who fits the style of Houston big man Clint Capella as a roller to the rim to score and space the court. Gafford had one of the best shooting percentages in university history with almost half his field goals being dunks.

The joke around Bulls headquarters during the draft in a tribute to Hall of Fame general manager Jerry Krause has been that the team was surprised their drafted players actually fell to them. It was a favorite post-draft comment of Krause's. But this time it probably was accurate since the pre-draft consensus was that the top three point guards, Ja Morant, Darius Garland and White, all would be selected before the Bulls pick at No. 7.

Duke's Zion Williamson, predictably, was the No. 1 pick and Morant as the exceptional point guard was No. 2. Williamson's teammate, RJ Barrett, was taken third. With the Anthony Davis trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, the New Orleans Hornets with the Lakers' No. 4 pick traded it to Atlanta. The Hawks selected Virginia forward De'Andre Hunter. The Cleveland Cavaliers then selected point guard Garland even after picking point guard Collin Sexton last year.

"I really lucked out. I'm glad the Bulls put their trust and confidence in me. I'm joining a great organization in a great city with a great fan base."

Coby White

The Phoenix Suns at No. 6 were long expected to select a point guard, which figured to be White. Then the Minnesota Timberwolves traded into the No. 6 spot. But the rumor was the Timberwolves did so to select a point guard, which would be White, with Jeff Teague going into his last season and Derrick Rose a free agent. The Bulls reportedly were fully prepared to take Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver. The Bulls coveted a point guard, but were beginning to move into the mode of seeking a point guard to compete with Dunn in free agency this summer. With Denzel Valentine coming off injury and Chandler Hutchison having missed half his rookie season hurt, the Bulls were apparently considering Culver as a fill-in wing player. They would have been pleased, though perhaps a bit disappointed.

So it came somewhat unexpected when the Timberwolves surprised with the selection of Culver. The talk was the Timberwolves see Culver as a potential two-way replacement for Jimmy Butler, the often irritated free agent who demanded a trade and was moved to the 76ers. The Timberwolves in the move to No.6 sent Dario Saric from the Butler trade to the Suns.

White was then available to the Bulls, who eagerly sent word for the Bulls baseball cap to be plopped on top of White full head of hair.

And we do know from Biblical history that a full head of hair can supply special strength.

In White's case, it's his super power of speed, which can kill opponents.

Coby White meets with the media following being drafted

White was the top prep scorer in North Carolina history and was named the stats's top high school player as a senior. He naturally went to the U. of North Carolina and surpassed Jordan's freshman scoring record. He averaged 16.1 points and 4.1 assists, but also almost three turnovers per game.

Though the Bulls hope to slate White eventually at point guard, he's been viewed by scouts more as a sometimes frenetic shoot first player. He's excellent in transition with an ability to pull up for a jumper with range or dynamically finish at the basket. He has had success as well as a catch and shoot three-point shooter despite sometimes playing out of control. That's no surprise given he only turned 19 in February. He's also not regarded highly on defense, which also is not surprising given his age and skill level. But he is considered a fun loving, high spirited person with an excellent work ethic and active motor.

The appealing trait is his potential to play with an unusual twitch-quick athlete like LaVine, who also is a shooting guard who has the ability to handle the ball and make plays. So while neither is the classic point guard, they potentially fit as tandem with the modern NBA backcourts like in Portland with scorers like Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

"Size at my position will translate well in the league. My speed, getting up and down the court, my shotmaking ability and ability to create my own shot and my ability to playmake (are strengths)."

Coby White

The eventual commitment to a player like White suggests the Bulls would revert to a fast breaking, running and scoring team to take advantage of the talents of LaVine and White.

Though a wiry 19-year-old like White attempting to develop more point guard skills doesn't project as a ready-to-play point guard.

Welcome to Chicago, Coby White!

The Bulls still figure to feature Dunn as the starting point guard, thus also giving Dunn a chance to show he can improve his shooting and finishing at the baskets, which are strengths of White. The Bulls have said they intend to give Dunn a chance to show he deserves to remain the starting point guard. If Dunn remains with the somewhat surprising draft of White, it perhaps changes the summer free agency priority regarding a point guard. The speculation has been the Bulls would seek a free agent point guard like Ricky Rubio, a free agent who is being replaced by Mike Conley in Utah. Perhaps the Bulls look to support other positions with the combination of Dunn and White and Ryan Arcidiacono expected to be retained as third guard.

Though it's also possible the Bulls with White could look to trade Dunn and still seek a veteran point guard in free agency who could tutor and help develop White since young point guards generally take a few years to assume the role of directing a team.

Coby White poses during the 2019 NBA Draft

But the Bulls also need to consider adding veterans given the youth of their roster. Most of the core players like LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. are young and relatively inexperienced. Plus, they start anew with coach Jim Boylen beginning his first full NBA season as head coach.

"Everything is going to be a transition I feel like for anyone because you're playing against such higher competition, more athleticism, better players," said White. "But I feel like my transition will go over well. I learn quickly. I'm a great listener. So I'm always trying to improve my game in many different ways. I really lucked out. I'm glad the Bulls put their trust and confidence in me. I'm joining a great organization in a great city with a great fan base."

Got a question for Sam?

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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