How Derrick White adds a new dimension to the Boston Celtics
Winslow Townson – USA TODAY Sports
The Boston Celtics made three moves at the NBA trade deadline, including acquiring Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs. It was the biggest of several marquee trades by Brad Stevens to bolster the roster and the returns could impact this franchise in 2022 and beyond.
Boston prioritized upgrading its rotation at the trade deadline. In a related deal, Boston acquired Daniel Theis from the Houston Rockets in a package that featured Enes Freedom and Dennis Schroder.
Boston essentially traded a third of its roster to acquire White and Theis. White likely becomes head coach Ime Udoka’s starting point guard. Although there are a lot of moving parts, the guard adds a much-needed dimension to his offense.
Here’s how Derrick White is driving the Celtics’ operation forward.
Derrick White gives Boston Celtics a spark
White is a rough player, if you will, playing in constant motion. The guard does a bit of everything. He has a knack for getting inside the dribble, is a crafty passer and defends well. All the while, he’s a capable shooter and more of a combo guard than a true one or two guard. It’s perfect for the Celtics.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will continue to be the Celtics’ primary sources of offense, which means they often have the ball in their hands. Already adept at taking on a role off the ball, the 6ft 4in White can continue to play hard in his new home.
White will be a third source of attack, helping to facilitate and divert attention from Tatum and Brown, who are each prolific goalscorers. The 27-year-old is a composed ball handler. He rarely turns the ball over, will create open looks for others when attacking the rack, and will give the Celtics consistent strength at both ends of the floor.
- Derrick White’s stats (2021-22): 14.4 points, 5.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 42.6 / 31.4 / 86.9
In thought, going from Schroder to White is minimal, if any, improvement. The former is a consistently productive half-court scorer and both guards produce at similar clips and are in similar age ranges. On the other hand, White provides more shine and is under contract until 2025, while Schroder is an imminent free agent.
Boston Celtics Rotation Balance
In the aftermath of these transactions, the rotation of the Celtics is more balanced.
White is the main point guard, creating for those around him and he serves as a vital source of offense overall. Tatum is the offensive focal point and Brown is a top wing scorer. Marcus Smart can either play a role off the ball in the front five or come off the bench – knowing White eventually gets the go-ahead to start.
In the scenario, Robert Williams III and Al Horford remain in the starting five, the Celtics offense can still work. Williams remains an inside threat while Horford stretches the ground a bit with his shot. If one of them is benched, it ensures that a quality cross is on the floor at all times and gives the unit more speed on the floor.
- Derrick White Contract: $15.17 million (2021-’22), $16.39 million (2022-’23), $17.6 million (2023-’24), $18.8 million (2024-’25 )
Meanwhile, Aaron Nesmith can breathe a little, maybe get into a groove with his jump shot now that Richardson is gone. Payton Pritchard is a competent shooter. Theis is a versatile and smooth inside player. Grant Williams is a solid front-row player who is an effective shooter.
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This has traditionally been a superfluous rotation of young players. Now it begins to take the form of a well-balanced rotation.
Review of Derrick White’s short-term and long-term impact on Boston
White makes the Celtics a better team now and gives them flexibility in the years to come.
As mentioned, his frame and skill set gives the Celtics more options on how to assemble their backcourt rotation while Richardson’s departure opens the door for Nesmith and Pritchard to make progress. Their attack has more variety, is likely to be more aggressive, and the puzzle pieces fit together.
In the doomsday scenario where the Celtics regress and crash outright in the streak (miss the playoffs), they should be able to move the Whites in the offseason. He is a talented player who has enjoyed success in a variety of roles. Also, if they are successful, the Celtics’ first round this year will likely result in a player who resides near the end of the bench given he lands in the 20s; they have enough first-rounders struggling to stand out, as is.
Have the Celtics become a no-fault team or the team to beat in the Eastern Conference? Of course not, but their roster and overall outlook is better placed. They have a road to a deep playoff run, and that comes without even mentioning their encouraging play lately; Boston has won eight of its last nine, improving to 31-25.
Derrick White improves the Celtics in every way.