NBA Rookie Watch: Coby White Is Coming On Strong In Chicago

Coby White made a bit of history in late February. The former North Carolina point guard exploded for three consecutive games, scoring at least 33 points in each contest, and in the process became the first rookie in NBA history to compile at least 30 points in three straight while operating from a bench role. There are a few hoops to jump through to spit out that bit of league history but, in the same breath, White has flashed his considerable upside at times this season and that was the latest example.

White is averaging 30.8 points per game on 54 percent shooting (with 56 percent from three-point range) over the last four contests and that speaks for itself. The young point guard has topped the 20-point mark on nine occasions this season and, further displaying his upside, White has at least 25 points in seven games. White finished behind only Zion Williamson in rookie scoring for the month of February, averaging 20.1 points per game and shooting 41 percent from three-point range, and his play has been a real bright spot for the Bulls.

On one hand, White hasn’t always been consistent, and that is hardly surprising for a youthful rookie guard. He had a bit of a lull in mid-December, particularly from an efficiency standpoint and, along the way, Jim Boylen seemingly decided that White was still best suited for a bench role, keeping him out of the starting lineup in each and every game this season. However, White has been quite durable, appearing in every contest for Chicago, and his numbers in the last 30 games (14.0 points, 39.6 percent from three) look very promising.

Defensively, White will probably never be a game-changer, as he is limited from a size and physicality perspective. With that said, he doesn’t grade as a disastrous defensive player by advanced metrics, even as a rookie, and effort hasn’t been an issue for the speedy guard. There might be reason to question a long-term backcourt pairing of White and Zach LaVine from a defensive standpoint and, in truth, that could explain the decision by Boylen not to insert White into a more prominent role on an every-night basis. Still, there is plenty of reason for optimism with his play throughout his rookie campaign, even if many haven’t quite noticed his positive impact.

Where does White land in this week’s NBA Rookie Watch? Let’s explore.

Honorable Mentions

  • R.J. Barrett – Not everything has been great for Barrett, but he’s been productive lately. He has scored 15 points or more in five of the last six games and, in the last two contests, Barrett is shooting 61 percent. Baby steps.
  • De’Andre Hunter – Hunter continues to lead the entire rookie class in minutes played and, in recent days, his production has been up. Hunter is averaging 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in the last eight games, knocking down 46.8 percent of his three-point attempts during that run.
  • P.J. Washington – Washington would be higher than this if the goal was to only capture the full season. His overall numbers are still stronger than most and that is worth noting. In the last month, though, the former Kentucky standout is shooting only 37.7 percent from the floor and 27.1 percent from three, hurting his overall efficiency a bit.

10) Cam Reddish

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There were plenty of jokes made about Cam Reddish in the first half of the season, with the former Duke standout shooting 31.8 percent from the floor and 26 percent from three in his first 32 NBA games, even with quality defense that was overlooked. The young swingman has found his footing on the offensive side, though, averaging 13.7 points per game in the last 19 contests. Perhaps more importantly, Reddish is shooting 44 percent from the floor and 41 percent from three-point distance during that sample, providing optimism for the future.

9) Tyler Herro

Herro has been out of the lineup for 11 straight games and he’ll be absent again on Monday when the Miami Heat host the Milwaukee Bucks. As you can see by where he lands, that injury shouldn’t punish Herro too much, but it’s a shame that he hasn’t been able to make an impact lately. Keep in mind that Herro still ranks 11th in the rookie class in total minutes, and he’s been a positive contributor to a playoff team.

8) Coby White

Keep an eye on Coby White. He’s good at basketball.

7) Rui Hachimura

Hachimura missed 23 games in the middle of the season and, as a result, he fell out of the consciousness for many observers. Upon return, though, the former Gonzaga forward didn’t miss a beat. In the 11 games since coming back, Hachimura is shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 47.4 percent from three-point range, averaging 14.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Defense is still a question at times, but he’s been fun.

6) Eric Paschall

It’s been more of the same for Paschall and that isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. For the season, he is sixth among rookies in scoring, averaging 13.6 points per game. In February, he ranked fifth among rookies in scoring, averaging 14.3 points per game. Then, he kicked off March with 17 points and seven rebounds on Sunday. Did I mention that Paschall has a 56.5 percent true shooting this season?

5) Terence Davis

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Davis (and Brandon Clarke) are the hipster picks for first team All-Rookie and with good reason. Davis has been efficient and effective for an exceptionally good basketball team, and his numbers reflect that. He also doesn’t have a traditional case in the box score categories but the real ones know.

4) Kendrick Nunn

In a more “normal” ROY race, you’d be hearing Nunn’s name quite a bit. He’s an entrenched starter on a very good team and he ranks in the top four among rookies in both scoring and assists. Nunn’s efficiency isn’t always elite-level, but he’s been great in the last five games. In that time, Nunn is averaging 20.0 points on 55.6 percent shooting and 45.9 percent from three-point range.

3) Brandon Clarke

I know Clarke is injured at the moment and I know he doesn’t have the counting stats of a few players behind him on this list. He also leads the rookie class in win shares (and myriad other advanced metrics) and Clarke has been unfathomably efficient while also bringing defensive value. His 67 percent true shooting speaks for itself.

2) Zion Williamson

Williamson has scored 20 points or more in 11 consecutive games. That is fairly ludicrous for a rookie and, in that span, the No. 1 pick is averaging 26.4 points (on 58 percent shooting) and 6.3 rebounds per game. Morant is still No. 1 when it comes to body of work but, on a per-minute basis, Williamson has been “the guy” on the offensive end. Defensively… it’s not great yet, but that should come with more reps.

1) Ja Morant

Morant has been just fantastic this season. The Grizzlies went through a bit of a rough patch to end February, with a brutal schedule combining with untimely injuries to sink Memphis a bit in the standings. Morant was still quite good, though, and he left his mark with a 27-point, 14-assist eruption in an upset over the Lakers on Saturday. He’s still No. 1 and he’ll stay there barring injury or a total collapse in production.