Bulls Draft Coby White At No. 7 Overall

"He has the ability to score, handle," John Paxson says. "He’s quick."

Cody Westerlund
June 20, 2019 - 7:21 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- As a flurry of action played out before them, the Bulls stood pat in the NBA Draft on Thursday and selected an individual they hope can reinvigorate their moribund offense.

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Chicago drafted Coby White out of North Carolina at No. 7 overall. The 6-foot-5 White is viewed by many talent evaluators as a scoring-minded combo guard, but he has emphatically proclaimed, "I'm a point guard," and that's a void the Bulls need to fill after years of inconsistency at the position since Derrick Rose was traded in June 2016.

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson called White a "really good fit" for a team in need an of another gear offensively. He also didn't seem to pigeon-hole White just at point guard.

"As you know in our league today, lead guards tend to score and do a lot of things on the floor," Paxson said. "We think he has the ability to score, handle. He’s quick, fast, has positional size at 6-5 that we really liked and brings a lot of intangibles. As a young man, he’s a guy we’re really enjoy having here."

Related: Bernstein: Bulls make good call in adding Coby White

Scouts have praised the 19-year-old White for his shotmaking ability, speed, transition game, aggressiveness and relentless motor. He averaged 16.1 points and 4.1 assists while shooting 42.3 percent overall and 35.5 percent on 3-pointers last season, when he broke the freshman scoring record at North Carolina. 

The primary question mark surrounding his game is whether he can facilitate for others at a high level in the half-court setting, a concern that Paxson downplayed.

"He’s 19," Paxson said. "We have to keep that in mind. Most of the guys in this draft aren’t finished products, not anywhere close. Do we believe he will learn and grow? Absolutely. All of our background on him is he’s the type of young man who will take the challenge on."

White understands the learning curve that awaits him but cited his background as evidence for why he can shine.

"Everything is going to be a transition, I feel like for anyone because you're playing against higher competition, better players," White said when asked if he's ready to be an NBA point guard. "Everybody has to make the transition. I think my transition will go over well. I learn quickly. I'm a great listener, and I'm always trying to improve my game in any way."

White will be given the chance to compete for the starting point guard spot in training camp. The Bulls have challenged incumbent starting point guard Kris Dunn publicly and privately to improve.

Paxson again sent that message late Thursday, saying "we still value Kris very much" while adding "nothing can be given to you." White is ready for the challenge. 

"I'm definitely prepared mentally wise to compete every night," White said.

"Competing, it's in my blood. It's in my DNA. We're going to go at it for sure. Kris Dunn is a great, great player, but you know I can't wait to get there and get to work."

White didn't work out for the Bulls, but he did have an in-person interview with the last weekend. He admitted that he "had no idea where I was going to go" entering the night, and he asked his agent to keep him in the dark once a team called to inform that it was choosing White. On site at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the draft, White didn't know the Bulls were drafting him until the cameras descended upon his table as the No. 7 pick came up. 

During his interview with the Bulls, White visited with coach Jim Boylen, who oversaw an offense that played at the 20th-fastest pace in 2018-'19. The Bulls have vowed to change that with White in the fold.

"The way we want to play is you have to play faster in today’s game," Paxson said. "You have to get the ball up the floor. This young man can play an up-tempo game. Jim has spoken often about how we want to have multiple ball-handlers, guys who can take the ball off the board and push it up. Coby can run."

White was available after wheeling and dealing by other teams ahead of the Bulls. About 90 minutes before the draft began, the Hawks traded with the Pelicans to move up to No. 4, where they eventually selected Virginia forward De'Andre Hunter. The Cavaliers selected Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland at No. 5, while the Timberwolves packaged the No. 11 pick and Dario Saric to acquire the No. 6 selection, where they drafted Texas Tech guard Jarrett Culver.

The top three picks went as expected, with the Pelicans taking Duke forward Zion Williamson at No. 1, the Grizzlies drafting Murray State point guard Ja Morant at No. 2 and the Knicks choosing Duke wing RJ Barrett at No. 3.

In the second round, the Bulls chose Arkansas big man Daniel Gafford at No. 38 overall. The 20-year-old Gafford averaged 16.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 28.7 minutes as a sophomore this past season. He shot 66 percent from the field and 59.1 percent on free throws.

"He’s a defensive rolling center, high energy, can run the floor," Paxson said. "He’s very athletic. His rebounding numbers, analytically, hit shot-blocking numbers were really high. He played in a really difficult conference and produced. Again, he’s a young man that’s going to have to earn his stripes. But we like him as a basketball player."

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.