Spurs: The 3 Biggest Surprises of the 2021-22 Season

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2. The Derrick White trade

In retrospect, the Derrick White trade seems like a no-brainer, but it was certainly shocking in the immediate aftermath. Entering this season, many Spurs fans had high hopes for White after multiple injuries had cut his 2020-21 season short. That was supposed to have been his breakout year after an impressive NBA bubble performance, but he was ultimately never able to duplicate it. 

The biggest reason was a lack of aggressiveness and an overreliance on shooting threes despite hitting just 31.4% from deep for the Spurs this season. That lackluster combination led to him being the team's third-leading scorer. To his credit, he still held value as a playmaker and defender, but he was in year one of a 4-year, $73 million deal and it made little sense to keep him. This was especially true when you consider there was a much younger and cheaper replacement in Devin Vassell ready to replace him.

As a result, the Spurs wisely traded White while his value was still high and got an excellent return for him. In addition to getting Boston's 2022 first, they received a 2028 1st round pick swap, Romeo Langford, and Josh Richardson. That haul gives the Spurs an extra 1st round pick, the ability to potentially move up in a future draft, and Richardson, who was an effective White replacement. 

In fact, he averaged 11.4 points in just 24.4 minutes, shot a blistering 44.4% on threes, and was a key part of the Spurs making the play-in tournament. Meanwhile, White continued to struggle to shoot on the Celtics despite their red-hot play.

Ultimately, had the Spurs not made the trade, they likely wouldn’t have made the Play-In Tournament. When taking into account the preseason expectations for White, it’s surprising that the Spurs were better off without him.