With Derrick White establishing himself as a long-range sniper, the San Antonio Spurs are being bailed out from what would be a floor-spacing nightmare.
It was reported in the offseason that San Antonio Spurs combo guard Derrick White was locking himself in the gym to refine his three-point shot. As one of the few unanticipated additions to storied coach Gregg Popovich’s Team USA squad in the FIBA World Cup, White took a breakout sophomore campaign and built on it by adding to his game and learning from his peers.
His hard work is coming to fruition this season as the third-year player is up to 39.2% shooting on 2.4 triples per contest. This percentage is a 5.4% leap from what he finished with last year, albeit on fewer takes. White has started in the last seven games—San Antonio won four of those games and is starting to turn things around after going on an abysmal losing streak.
Having a floor spacer in the starting five with the focal point of the offense being two mid-range specialists in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge has been pivotal for a struggling Spurs lineup. Though the expectation is that Dejounte Murray will make an eventual return to the starting five, White may stay in that starting lineup when the time comes.
The Spurs have a 22.9 assist ratio with White on the floor, ranking second on the team just behind Murray. His playmaking has taken strides since being drafted 29th in 2017 and his chemistry is sound with the entire starting lineup due to their experience together last year. Popovich has been reluctant to play a White/Murray lineup this year, most likely because that’d mean more minutes for Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills—two undersized guards.
Derrick White, having fun with Pop saying to "let the 3s fly" like he did tonight en route to sinking a career high 5 long balls: "I think I might take like 20 next game now."
— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) November 30, 2019
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However, fear of poor defense isn’t going to help the Spurs right the ship and putting the best players on the floor is the best option to pursue moving forward. While Forbes is a great volume shooter with an instant trigger, White’s shooting this year can offset his move to the bench. This would also ensure that the second unit is zipping up and down the court with a fluid motion-based offense in both the half and full court.
In the four games in which White has made two or more triples, the Spurs have a positive point differential—something that hasn’t happened all too often this season. By establishing himself as a stronger outside shooter and reacting to the trends of the game, White is proving that he’s worthy of a start position regardless of who else is there with him.
In the grand scheme of things, the Spurs are only 1.5 games out of the playoffs and 6.5 away from homecourt advantage. The West is rigid and there’s plenty of time left in the season, regardless of how poorly San Antonio is performing thus far.
If the Spurs are going to return to form and be a playoff contender once more, White must continue shooting the ball as well as he has.