With an increased role in his second season with the San Antonio Spurs, guard Derrick White has sneakily shown signs of growth and confidence recently.
Very quickly into his time with the team, Spurs fans could tell that Derrick White was going to be special. The combination of his size and quickness enable him to score from distance, dish to open teammates and finish at the rack.
As he took over as floor general for the Austin Spurs, White developed his game by learning from his coaches and adjusting to professional competition. It wasn’t long until the 24-year-old became the overwhelming leader of a championship team. He continued his excellent play into the Summer League with a particularly dominant showing in the Utah League.
After missing the first nine games of the season, White showed signs of rust upon his return. He’d lost a step and became reckless with the ball in his hands. Rotations have been fluid for head coach Gregg Popovich who already has shown great trust in Derrick, regardless of his role in a given night.
Point guard Patty Mills found himself on a bit of a hot streak around the same time that White hit a rough shooting patch, so the sophomore found himself giving up minutes to his elder and the rest of Pop’s rotation. He hit rock bottom against Milwaukee on Nov. 24, posting only two points and two assists in five minutes of play.
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Since then, Popovich has rapidly increased White’s minutes because of his team’s dire need for two-way help on the wing. He’s stepped up to the role over the last two games, playing a combined 66 minutes. Over that span, White has connected on 9-of-15 field goals including 2-of-4 three-pointers for 22 points.
In addition to his efficient scoring, White stuffed the stat sheet with rebounds and assists. He set a career-high with nine dimes in the loss against Houston and grabbed five boards in each of his previous two outings. Though he did not record a defensive stat, White has been a lone bright spot on that end of the floor in Popovich’s porous backcourt rotation.
White has been underwhelming as a three-point shooter this year, though he’s begun to find his shooting stroke over the last week. What’s been most impressive is his ability to drive to the cup and evade defenders with side steps and gather moves. The absence of Dejounte Murray has deflated San Antonio’s willingness to get out in transition but an increase in usage from White could help propel this team from that standpoint.
Though White came off the bench in both games, he managed to rack up substantial minutes because of his excellent play. If he can keep this streak alive, it wouldn’t be surprising to see White rejoin the starting unit with one of Bryn Forbes or Dante Cunningham joining the second unit. For as feisty and accurate as Forbes has been this year, his skill set may be better suited for the second unit.
There’s still plenty of time for Popovich to figure out where everyone it’s in the rotation but an increased role for Derrick White could be in the cards.