Coby White may have perfect hair, but he isn’t the perfect player.
Yesterday, we analyzed White’s offensive skill set and how it may translate onto the Bulls roster this upcoming seasons. For the most part, everything was positive, but a lot of that positivity hinges on how often the coaching staff simply allows White to use his natural tools.
But one area where they’ll definitely need to intervene is White’s defense. The 19-year-old point guard isn’t showered in flaws, but he has the most room for improvement on this side of the ball.
The best place to start when discussing what to expect from White as a defender is with his size. For a point guard, he actually has a tad bigger frame than initially expected. I’m not sure if it’s just how fast he is moving on the court, but people are, typically, surprised to hear that he checks in with nice positional size at 6′ 5″ and 183 lbs. He is certainly big enough to put up a fight against most NBA point guards. Sure, he can (and will) add muscle to his overall frame, which should help him keep from being overpowered, but his starting size could be a lot worse.
When you take into account his size and quick feet, he should develop the chops to efficiently stay in front of either guard position. His wingspan (6’4″) and vertical isn’t necessarily going to make you jump out of your seat though, so the chance of him becoming helpful in the rim-protection category is low. Not to mention, this will also impact his ability to contest shots.
Players will be able to get shots off over White, and surprisingly, probably beat him off the first step toward the basket even with his speed. White’s defensive vision just isn’t there yet, and he might be playing a bit tighter on defenders at times due to his shorter wingspan.
Like most things though, White has the potential to make up for these weaknesses with his basketball IQ (he’s a smarty). He plays the game with a strong awareness on both ends of the court, so he can often channel good timing to poke a ball away or jump to contest a shot.
Regardless, the Bulls front office and coaching staff appear to be aware of the work White has to do on the defensive end: “We will see how that (Zach LaVine and Coby White backcourt) develops, we think Coby can be a good defender, but he is young. Guys come into this league, there is a learning curve, I don’t care who you are and what position you play,” Paxson said during a press conference following the 2019 NBA draft. “He’ll be challenged every night guarding some really good players. Jim (Boylen) will challenge our guys to be better defensively from day one.”
White’s truly conflicting, because his quick feet and (generally speaking) strong build for a rookie point guard make it feel as though he should be a better defender. You have to imagine he will improve greatly as time goes on, especially with his hard-working mentality. His defensive rating of 98.9 isn’t anything to hang your hat on, but it’s better than the point guards ranked around him (i.e. Ja Morant, Darius Garland and Carsen Edwards).
No matter what, White does play with a lot of energy and effort, something he is continually praised for. As long as he continues to bring the energy on the court and approach opponents with a heightened level of defensive intensity, his weakness may not be as noticeable.
For more of a breakdown on White defensive skills, I encourage you to check out this scouting report from The Steipen.