As we sit in the NBA abyss waiting for the season to start, we can spend a little extra time looking into the hypothetical. The verdict on how deep the 2019 draft actually goes must remain “out” for several years before any trustworthy decision can be made, but we do know the Bulls first-round pick, Coby White, is entering the NBA behind some potential superstar-caliber players.
And all of this recent “White and the NBA rookie class” stuff got me thinking: What does it take to win ROY nowadays?
Let’s make one thing abundantly clear up front: If White were to pull this off, it would be *shocking* – especially with a draft class that includes Zion Williamson and Ja Morant … but stranger things have happened. So let’s breakdown what White needs to do to become a candidate.
I went ahead and gathered all the season stats from each Rookie of the Year since the 2009-10 season. For a quick look, this is whom we’re dealing with:
- 2009-10: Tyreke Evans
- 2010-11: Blake Griffin
- 2011-12: Kyrie Irving
- 2012-13: Damian Lillard
- 2013-14: Michael Carter-Williams
- 2014-15: Andrew Wiggins
- 2015-16: Karl-Anthony Towns
- 2016-17: Malcolm Brogdon
- 2017-18: Ben Simmons
- 2018-19: Luka Doncic
All right, for starters, the majority of those players above are point guards, so that’s a bonus for Coby White. This year, he’ll obviously have Morant competing for the honor at the same position, but there aren’t many other point guards he’ll have to worry about. Cool.
But when we start to look at the stats (you, know, the part that actually matters most), the battle becomes increasingly uphill.
First, take into account the average minutes per game for ROY award winners over the last 10 seasons: 33.9. Yikes. That’s a TON of time on the court and, clearly, that means you’re an everyday-starter from the minute the season tips off. When White was drafted back in June, it felt like this could be the case once October rolled around, but after the Bulls signed Tomas Satoransky and held onto Kris Dunn, the conversation has turned into whether White can even get 20-minutes per game.
In terms of points per game, ROY award winners were typically grabbing 17.9 by the time the season ended. However, when you go ahead and just look at the point guards on this list, the number does drop a bit (16.7). Hitting the points per game criteria would probably be the easiest task for White. The guy should be a certified bucket-getter once he adjusts to the NBA game, but, still, if he isn’t getting the appropriate minutes on the court, there is no way he will reach nearly 17-points per game.
The category that seems to hold quite a bit of weight regardless of position is field goal percentage. Every single ROY over the past ten years has shot over 45 percent from the field, except for Michael Carter-Williams (40.5) and, shockingly, Damian Lillard (42.9). The average among all these players ended up being 46.8 percent. I’m not sure White can shoot that well right away.
Again, he has the natural scoring ability, but he also throws up his fair share of shots. Throughout his one season at UNC, he only went 42.3 percent from the field, and at Summer League he only shot 34 percent. I know, you never want to put too much weight on Summer League, but all of this is just to say he hasn’t proven to be as efficient as he would need to be.
Even as we outline the on-court logistics, White’s draft class is really the biggest obstacle standing in his way. While Malcolm Brogdon and Carter-Williams both represent players who were picked lower in their respective draft than White, the majority of these ROY’s were top-3 picks.
Williamson and Morant will have the benefit of instant-starting minutes, as is expected for No. 3-overall pick RJ Barrett. If White were to pass these guys up it would have to be similar to the 2012 ROY race. Damian Lillard was the No. 6 pick in the draft and managed to beat out Anthony Davis (drafted No. 1 finished No. 2) and Bradley Beal (drafted No. 3 finished No. 3). Also, just to emphasize how stacked that year was, Andre Drummond finished in 4th. It all goes back to minutes on the court though, Lillard averaged 38.6 minutes a night, the highest among all ROY’s over these last ten years.
At the end of the day, if you ask me whether or not White has the potential to put together a ROY campaign, my answer would be yes. If you ask me whether he can do it on the Bulls, I’d have to say no. The situation just isn’t right.
A franchise needs to total unleash their rookie for a shot at a ROY title, and, sadly, the Bulls will probably be playing it safe to start with White.