Drafted seventh overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, UNC Basketball point guard Coby White made his Summer League debut Friday night for the Chicago Bulls. Here’s a breakdown of all that went down.
Whenever you draft a point guard — or a player slotted in to man the “lead guard” spot in an NBA offense — with an early selection in the NBA Draft, it is expected that ups and downs will mark the first few years of the guard’s development. Playing the ‘1’ in the NBA is no small task, nor is it a quick learning process for rookies.
The learning curve is steep, with most rookie guards struggling — and, quite simply, outright playing poorly — throughout their first-year campaigns. Even the most heralded of prospects struggle to find their footing during their introductory seasons in the NBA, with last year’s crop of guard talent being no different: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (-1.51 Real Plus-Minus, 50th out of 100 point guards per ESPN), Collin Sexton (-5.37 RPM, dead-last), and even Trae Young (-2.74 RPM, 77th) were all significant negatives as rookie point guards, and that’s only looking at the three guards that went in the lottery. Jalen Brunson, Aaron Holiday, Jevon Carter, and Devonte’ Graham also finished in the bottom-half of point guards, so this notion is universal for picks high and low. There are a few scragglers every now and then that put up positive rookie seasons, but they’re not as common as some would believe.
Coby White was not expected to be the man to break this precedent, at least he shouldn’t have been, and if his Summer League debut against the Los Angeles Lakers — 17 points on a less-than-stellar 6-of-18 shooting (including 0-of-7 from downtown and 5-of-7 from the line), three rebounds, three assists, two steals and three turnovers in 31 minutes — was any indicator, his rookie season could be a rough one, perhaps rougher than expected.
While is should unequivocally be noted that overreactions over Summer League play should be avoided, there can still be takeaways regarding how players go about playing with NBA-caliber teammates — how they find their scoring opportunities (and of course, whether they capitalize or not), how they play within the flow of the offense, how they fare on defense, and so on and so forth. Summer League stats, while not something to totally discard, are still meaningful, although they historically don’t mean much when it comes to projecting for the future.
Players can have off shooting nights. Nerves can get the best of them. There’s an understandable adjustment period. Some players — Coby White included, with a reported ankle sprain — are even banged up at the event.
Whether or not shots go in or not shouldn’t really be held against a player. That’s why I’m not too worried about the raw stat sheet from White. His brief tenure as a prolific scoring guard at UNC was one filled with highs and lows, with hot shooting performances often being followed up with duds. Misses are to be expected, even if last night was full of more than one would’ve been comfortable with.
But it was how White produced these misses that are concerning. Viewers didn’t see anything new from him. Streaky shooting, congested drives to the basket, ill-timed jumpers and layups, and blown passing opportunities (predetermined passing reads and missed windows) all plagued the guard on offense, and his inconsistent defense wasn’t great, either.
Before delving into the troubling parts of his debut, there were still some bright spots worth noting.