San Antonio Spurs: Examining the emergence of Derrick White
By Andrew Ites
The San Antonio Spurs are one of the hottest teams in the league right now and the emergence of Derrick White is a major reason why.
Like many San Antonio Spurs before him, Derrick White traveled a winding path to the NBA.
The only school that showed any interest in White coming out of high school was a small NAIA culinary school in Denver. The coach at that school (Johnson & Wales) was then hired at a Division II school (despite having a pretty terrible record at the NAIA level) and he took White with him.
White excelled at Division II Colorado Springs and eventually made the jump to Division I basketball by transferring to Colorado-Boulder.
White impressed enough in his one year of DI basketball for the Spurs to take him with the 29th overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Now in his second NBA season, Derrick White is making the most of his opportunity as he has throughout his entire basketball life.
After Dejounte Murray went down with a torn ACL this preseason, Derrick White was expected to fill the role of starting point guard in his second NBA season after not seeing much time with the Spurs as a rookie.
The former Colorado Buffalo played well as a starter in the last couple of preseason games before he also went down with an injury that would sideline him until November.
White returned to the floor against the Heat on November 7th, and it took a while for him to shake the rust off from a month-long absence.
He averaged a measly 5.6 points per game with 3.2 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 19.3 minutes during the month of November, and he shot just 38.4% from the field with a true shooting percentage of 46.1% in his first month back from a heel injury.
Fortunately, White didn’t allow that ugly first month to hurt his confidence as he bounced back with a strong December.
Derrick White finally began to find his footing during the month of December as he cracked the starting lineup in 11 of 16 games, and he earned the trust of Gregg Popovich to run with the first unit.
White improved in every category during December scoring 7.8 points per game while dishing 3.8 assists with 3.4 rebounds in 24.9 minutes per night.
White’s shot began to fall at a much higher clip last month with a 54.1% true shooting percentage, and he was vital to the Spurs’ hot streak with a plus-minus of +18.1 during December.
He also provided the defense that San Antonio was lacking at the point guard position in the absence of Dejounte Murray by swiping 1.3 steals per game.
We may look back at this month of December as the turning point in White’s career as he’s followed it up with a hot start to the month of January.
Next: January and beyond
January and beyond
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White’s strong performance in December has earned him the starting point guard job in San Antonio while the organization waits until Murray can hopefully return to the court healthy next year.
White has begun the month of January with an incredible hot streak over the first three games of the new year.
He has scored 18.3 points per game in wins over the Raptors, Grizzlies, and Pistons while shooting a scorching 74.1% from the floor with an eye-popping true shooting percentage of 84% during that stretch.
White is doing a great job of taking care of the ball with only three turnovers in those three games, and it looks like he is completely comfortable running the point.
It’s unrealistic to ask Derrick White to continue to put up these absurd numbers for the rest of the season, but it’s clear that he has turned the corner during year two in the Spurs’ program.
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It’s still early in his career, but I think we can chalk White up as another success story in San Antonio’s long history of drafting and developing unheralded prospects.