Derrick White’s 3-point shooting is saving the San Antonio Spurs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 02: Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs looks at his hands after a play against the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Visa Athletic Center. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 02: Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs looks at his hands after a play against the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Visa Athletic Center. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) /

Derrick White has helped the San Antonio Spurs by exploding from beyond the arc

There has been plenty to like about how the San Antonio Spurs have played in their three games in the bubble. Injuries have forced them into new and exciting rotations to go with a new style of play. The results have been encouraging for the team’s future and a joy to watch.

After much pleading from Spurs fans, Gregg Popovich and the coaching staff have thrown the old regular season style out the window and fully embraced what their hard running group of young players can do.

San Antonio has a dangerous quartet of Keldon Johnson, Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, and Lonnie Walker leading the charge, with cagey veterans in Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan providing the stability when necessary. By letting their young guys run wild while the veterans time their takeovers, the Spurs are carefully walking the line between focusing on player development while also contending for a spot in the playoffs.

Keldon Johnson has been one of the more exciting players to watch so far, but no one has taken a bigger, and more impactful, step forward in the bubble then Derrick White. Back in a starting role alongside Dejounte Murray, White is thriving. He’s doing all of the things we’ve come to know and appreciate about his game but he’s also made real improvements in areas that he was previously below average.

Derrick White has become one of the San Antonio Spurs best shooters

White has exploded from beyond the arc, becoming one of the Spurs’ most dangerous 3-point shooters through their last three games. This is crucial for San Antonio going forward but has also been a huge part of their early success in Orlando.

Through the games against the Kings, 76ers, and Grizzlies, White has attempted 23 3-pointers, knocking down 11 of them. That’s a huge increase from what we saw from him during the first part of the regular season.

Before the season was suspended, White was averaging 2.9 three’s per night and was connecting on 35 percent of his attempts. Over the past three games, he’s been averaging 7.7 attempts from deep and knocking down 47 percent of them.

With Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli missing time, someone had to step up. White’s taken the responsibility head-on and thrived as the Spurs new volume shooter. What we’ve seen from him over these three games likely isn’t going to continue into next season but there are some real changes he’s made to how he’s getting these shots off that should carry over.

Most of White’s recent 3-point attempts have come in catch and shoot situations. During the first part of the regular season, he would routinely get similar looks to the ones he’s seen over the past three contests but would turn them down in favor of driving to the rim or keeping the ball moving around the perimeter.

White’s unselfishness with the basketball and participation in a drive and kick offense is great to see, but his new willingness to let it fly from behind the arc has been a much-needed upgrade to the Spurs. He’s been firing away without hesitation, much to the delight of his teammates and Spurs fans.

Here White could have easily driven into the lane and gone for a floater or tried to draw Ja Morant in before kicking it to Lonnie Walker in the corner. Instead, he neatly stepped right into an open look and knocked it down. We can’t expect him to keep canning nearly 50 percent of his attempts but consistently doing little things like opting for his own look from deep more often can be huge for the Spurs next season.

Equally important is what White’s long-range improvements will do for his on-court chemistry with Dejounte Murray. Getting the two more playing time together here in Orlando has been a major point of focus for the Spurs and what’ve seen so far has been encouraging for the viability of this duo going forward.

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Of the 96 minutes that White has played over the last three games, 52 of them have come with Murray as his partner in the backcourt. The two have had an offensive rating of 118.8 in those minutes, an impressive jump from the offensive rating of 109.7 that they posted during their time together in the first part of the season.

While White has been shooting more from beyond the arc, Murray hasn’t done the same. He’s put up just 8 attempts from deep so far and continues to show a preference for attacking the rim or pulling up from a mid-range jumper. White’s continued growth as a deep threat will continue to make those preferences a viable option for Murray.

The two still have improvements to make on the defensive end of the floor but these three games have been a confirmation of sorts that this backcourt can work in the long term. Shooting and floor spacing was always the big question mark, White’s recent play, if continued, puts those worries to rest.

Next. Three takeaways from the San Antonio Spurs’ nail-biter against the Philadelphia 76ers

A lot has gone into the San Antonio Spurs almost perfect record in the bubble but no one player has had a greater impact on the team’s success than Derrick White. In order to make the playoffs, San Antonio will need him to stay hot over these final five games.