Eyebrows were raised when the Boston Celtics traded for Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs at the February 14 trade deadline.
The common consensus was that the Celtics needed additional shooting, ideally from a wing position. But, President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens had different ideas and opted to bring in the defensive specialist to help shore up the Celtics bench unit.
White is also a talented offensive player, but not in the way most people would expect. The Colorado native isn’t a great three-point shooter, hitting just 33.6% on his career, nor is he a considerable threat from the field at 44% over his five years in the NBA. But, White is an exceptional decision maker and helps the offense flow due to his high-level ball movement.
According to Kendrick Perkins, White has been an unsung hero of this current Celtics team since joining the roster.
“Guess who’s been the unsung hero that has sparked the unselfishness of this Celtics team. Derrick White, coming from the Spurs, you watch the cutting, the ball movement. You know with the Spurs, they have a .5 rule that you’ve gotta get off the ball and swing it. Now you’re seeing it translate to these Boston Celtics, Derrick White has really impressed me,” Perkins said on a recent episode of NBA Countdown.
White is Here to Stay
When the Celtics acquired White, a lot of Celtics fans felt like the move was a precursor to a more significant deal in the off-season. Boston now has multiple mid-range contracts on their roster, which are considered to be the ideal type of trade chip when constructing a package for a star player.
However, according to Heavy.com’s Steve Bulpett, the Celtics are enamored with their new addition, and he’s unlikely to be going anywhere anytime soon.
“What is amazing to me is his shooting numbers have been that poor and yet it hasn’t been a concern. He fits so well. When the deal was made I wrote that, look, they gave up a lot for Derrick White, but clearly, this is a guy who Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka had targeted as this is our guy.
OK, you overspent in terms of looking at it from the outside, but if he is the guy you think works, then it is worth it. And I think he has been. The game he plays, the ball moves, he doesn’t, the ball doesn’t stick in his hands. Defensively, he has been very good. The shooting numbers, I fully expect them to improve,” Bulpett said during a recent episode of Heavy on the NBA.
It would seem that most around the NBA share Bulpett’s train of thought, as one Eastern Conference executive who spoke to Heavy.com on the condition of anonymity echoed his statement.
“I would be surprised if they turned around and dealt him. Obviously, if the target is right, you would make the move. If it is Bradley Beal or a star-type player, then, yes. But Ime Udoka has liked him for a long time, they did not get him just to move him,” The executive said.
Brad Stevens Sees White as an Accentuator
The hardest thing to do when you have elite-level star talent on your roster is to surround that talent with players who accentuate their skillsets. If you look at some of the Celtics’ recent struggles, it’s been because players like Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving haven’t been great fits alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
But White is built from a different mold, and his willingness to get off the ball quickly allows the Celtics to play a different brand of basketball, and their star wings are reaping the benefits.
When the Celtics acquired White at the trade deadline, Brad Stevens shared his thoughts on the deal and explained why he and Ime Udoka felt the move was perfect for what the team is trying to achieve.
“We’ve thought for years that Derrick was a really good fit with our best players. He is an excellent defender. He just makes the right play on offense over and over and over. He’s a guy that only cares about winning, that will do all of the little things, as you can see in some of his stats, defensively, with regard to willingness to put his body on the line, activity shot challenges, all of those things,” Stevens told the media following the Celtics trade deadline activity.
White might not be the star player most Celtics fans were hoping for at the trade deadline. Still, if the team is going to have any chance of overcoming Eastern Conference powerhouses like the Milwaukee Bucks or Brooklyn Nets, he’s precisely the type of player the team needs. And now, after settling into the Celtics rotation and getting accustomed to their system, he’s beginning to get the praise his current level of play deserves.