James White NBA Draft Scouting Report

James White NBA Draft Scouting Report
Jun 17, 2006, 09:53 pm
A world class athlete, White could have been a track and field star had he chosen not to play basketball. He is one of the best leapers in this draft, with an incredible vertical leap that will surely secure him a spot in next year’s dunk contest. He elevates off the floor as quickly as anyone in this draft, and has great hangtime to help him finish at the rim emphatically in crowd pleasing fashion. White also has excellent footspeed and overall quickness, which comes to play mostly in the work he does in transition as well as on the defensive end. White has prototypical size for the swingman position at approximately 6-7 and very good length. His conditioning level is fantastic and you’d rarely see him leave the floor playing for Cincinnati. On physical attributes alone, White is one of the most attractive players in this draft at his position.

Offensively, White has made consistent improvement over his four year college career. This is most noticeable in his ball-handling, which allowed him to bring the ball up the floor and even handle the point guard position at times for Cincinnati. White is an unselfish player by nature, certainly to a fault at times, and has shown to be capable of making intelligent and highly creative passes thanks to his very solid court vision, and even run an offense semi-effectively. The range on his shot has also improved dramatically, to the point that he shot 37.4% from the NCAA 3-point line, albeit mostly on spot-up threes. His mechanics smooth when he sticks to them and it would not be a shock to see him develop in a solid NBA 3-point shooter. In transition is where White is truly at his best, as he flies up and down the court in the open floor and is able to beat point guards down the court after he gets going on his 2nd or 3rd dribble.

Defensively is where White currently stands out the most as far as his NBA draft potential goes. He has good length and outstanding lateral quickness, being able to stay in front of almost anyone at the college level when focused and be a real threat in the passing lanes. He’s extremely versatile in the sense that he’s been asked to defend every position from the 1-4 in college, and has generally enjoyed great success doing so.

In terms of intangibles, his mentality and overall toughness have been questioned repeatedly over the past four years, but his coaching staff raves about his work ethic. Although he never quite developed into the superstar many envisioned him becoming out of high school, he has improved significantly and is a fairly complete all-around player.

After five years in college, the light bulb still hasn’t fully come on for White, and there are serious question marks over whether it ever will. He gets into extended funks at times that can last for an entire game at best or a few weeks at worst, and has a tendency to become very passive when things get tough. During these stretches he would fail to assert himself in his team’s offense even when they need him to most, passing up wide open shots or settling for terrible ones, committing dumb fouls and generally displaying poor body language. Both his mental and physical toughness have been questioned repeatedly over the past few years.

Offensively, there is little doubt that White is an incredible athlete, but for someone with his set of tools, he really doesn’t use them nearly as much as he should. His slashing game is the part of his game that is most improvable, due to what you’d think he’d possess in terms of an incredible first step. White is not the most fluid player around, being a little bit too upright when handling the ball, and he lacks the body control needed to be able to slash to the basket efficiently through traffic. For all of his ridiculous athleticism, it’s hard to think of too many instances where he made a highlight reel play in a halfcourt set. He certainly lacks polish in terms of creating separation from his defender, whether it’s with advanced ball-handling moves or pulling up sharply off the dribble from mid-range. His decision making in general could use some work, as well as his shot selection. White is a pretty good outside shooter right now but is still prone to bouts of streakiness. Adding range to his shot is a priority, and becoming more versatile in terms of being able to consistently knockdown shots off the dribble would help.

Defensively he has great potential as mentioned, but seems to lack a bit of focus at times and will not apply himself to stopping his man as much as you’d hope on a consistent basis.

White was one of the most highly touted players in the country before committing to Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators, a McDonald’s All-American who some thought may even declare for the NBA before setting foot on a college floor. After coming off the bench his freshman season for the Gators, White decided to transfer to Cincinnati and sat out a year due to transfer rules. He played quite a bit of point his first year with the Bearcats and averaged 8 points, 4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, with a sparkling 1.68 assist to turnover ratio in 25 minutes per game. As a junior White began to round out his game a bit more but was still fairly inconsistent, averaging 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 28 minutes per game. Cincinnati lost to Kentucky in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. As a senior white established himself as one of the top swingmen in the Big East and played heavy minutes all season long due to numerous transfer and injuries following the firing of coach Bob Huggins. He started off the season in great form, scoring in double figures in his first 19 games and shooting the ball extremely well from the perimeter during that stretch. White ended up averaging 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and nearly 1 block per game in 33 minutes, shooting 49% from the field and 37.4% from the 3-point line. He scored in double figures in 29 of his 33 games. His team missed the NCAA Tournament on a controversial decision by the selection committee and instead competed in the NIT. He finished off his college career on somewhat of a sour note, being declared academically ineligible just prior to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden.

One of the biggest enigmas in college basketball over the past five years, White never quite lived to the lofty expectations coming out of high school, but still developed into an excellent all-around NCAA player that any coach in America would have loved to have. White is a rare 5th year college senior who still has a considerable upside to continue to improve. At worst he will be an excellent perimeter defender who does a little bit of everything in the NBA, and there is still hope that he can develop into much more than that. White is a likely 2nd round pick who could sneak into the late 1st round if a team likes him enough. He initially accepted his invite to Portsmouth and then backed out, and later decided not to attend the NBA pre-draft camp.

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