San Antonio Spurs: Areas of focus for Derrick White in the bubble

Derrick White of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball. (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)
Derrick White of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball. (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Derrick White of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball. (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)
Derrick White of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball. (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)

What do the San Antonio Spurs need Derrick White to focus on in Orlando

Whenever the San Antonio Spurs have needed him, Derrick White has risen to the occasion. He stepped into the starting point guard role last year and helped drive the team to the playoffs where he had a great breakout performance against his hometown Denver Nuggets. But in year three he experienced a serious role change.

There was hope that White would be paired with Dejounte Murray to form an intimidating, defense-focused backcourt, but that never came to fruition. Instead White took over as the leader of the second unit alongside Patty Mills, a role he excelled in.

White didn’t take any massive steps forward this year but he performed solidly across the board. He’s able to score from all levels, his jump shot is still a work in progress but it’s trending in the right direction, was a good passer in pick and roll situations, and continued to make his name on the defensive end of the floor.

In Orlando, White could be in for a bigger role. The Spurs coaching staff has indicated that they’re going to be prioritizing the development of young players over a real chase for a playoff spot. That could mean fewer minutes for veterans and more time for White to play with guys he didn’t get to share the floor with as much this year.

Regardless of how the rotations shake out, here is what Derrick White should be focused on over the final regular-season games.

Next: Defense

SAN ANTONIO, TX – NOVEMBER 16: Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Portland Trail Blazers is defended by Derrick White #4 and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – NOVEMBER 16: Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Portland Trail Blazers is defended by Derrick White #4 and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

Derrick White continues to do everything the Spurs ask on defense

Asking White to do even more on the defensive end seems a little greedy at this point. Since he’s stepped into a large role with the San Antonio Spurs he’s done everything they’ve asked of him and then some. The Spurs perimeter defense needs work, there’s no way around that. But the improvements should come from other players getting back up to average, not from White going from impressive to dominant.

If there is room for improvement it could be in his steals numbers. Dejounte Murray already blows up opponents passing lanes on a regular basis and picks pockets like a seasoned thief but so far White hasn’t been able to keep pace.

White averages just 1.1 steals per 100 possessions compared to Murray’s 3. If he’s able to get closer to the impressive benchmark that Murray has set it will only help the Spurs.

He’s a great one on one defender, is rarely out of position when he’s not guarding the ball and is one of the best shot-blocking guards in the league. There’s just very little that White doesn’t already do at an impressive level on the defensive side of the ball.

So the challenge for White should be to help pull the younger Spurs up to his level. As we mentioned earlier, the coaches are going to prioritize development over these next couple of games. That will mean more minutes for relatively inexperienced guys like Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson, and Quinndary Weatherspoon.

White needs to step up and be a very vocal leader whenever he shares the floor with younger players. Even though he’s been in the league for just three years he’s seen a lot and clearly has a very high basketball IQ, let’s see him share his knowledge and call out his teammates when they’re out of position, talk to them in timeouts with pointers on what to do better, and just take on a prominent leadership role on the defensive end.

With a backcourt of White and Murray, the Spurs have a good future to look forward to on defense, but now it’s up to the two young guards to take what they do and transition it into teachings for the younger guys.

Next: Offense

SAN ANTONIO, TX – FEBRUARY 26: Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs is fouled by Dorian Finney-Smith #10 of the Dallas Mavericks during first half action at AT&T Center. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – FEBRUARY 26: Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs is fouled by Dorian Finney-Smith #10 of the Dallas Mavericks during first half action at AT&T Center. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

Derrick White has more room for improvement on offense for San Antonio Spurs

Derrick White has done everything the Spurs have asked of him on defense, and he’s done the same on offense. But there’s still more room for improvement on that end of the floor for him.

DeMar DeRozan‘s time in San Antonio could be coming to an end here soon. Whether he decides to pick up his player option for next year is still up in the air but even if he is with the team for the 2020-21 season it’s hard to see him staying around for much longer past that. That means that the Spurs are going to need to replace his scoring in the backcourt eventually. White’s a prime candidate to help with that.

The biggest thing for White to work on is just looking to score on his own more. He’s a great passer and flows within the team’s offense well but there are times where he could be more aggressive in looking for his own buckets. Passing down a good look for a great one is an important pillar of the Spurs philosophy but considering who you’re kicking it out to for that ‘great look’ should come into play and, frankly, I’d rather have White going for a good look than some of the other guys going for a great one.

Another area for improvement would be on White’s perimeter shooting. Both he and Dejounte Murray are taking steps forward with their overall accuracy but neither one of them is anywhere close to being considered a volume shooter.

Our challenge to White is to let it fly more often. He’s shooting from deep just 3.9 times per 100 possessions. He is connecting on just 35.6 percent of his attempts so you can understand his hesitancy to use a possession on a look that he’s not confident he can make but how is he supposed to build that confidence if he’s not shooting three’s?

The Spurs are by no means throwing these final eight games away but the team seems to have resigned themselves to the likelihood that they’re not going to the playoffs. Hopefully, that will encourage White to play a little bit looser and look for his own shot more. There’s a line between hunting for your own shots and being selfish and walking that line will be a test for White but it’s a test he should be more than capable of passing.

Next. Hype continues to grow around San Antonio Spurs youngsters in Orlando

On both ends of the floor, Derrick White can work on being more aggressive. It can come in the form of being more vocal on defense or looking for his own shots more often on offense but this team needs him to take command.

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