San Antonio Spurs: The Murray-White backcourt deserves time to flourish

Dejounte Murray Derrick White
Dejounte Murray Derrick White / Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
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Impactful guard defenders don’t just fall off of trees, yet there are growing murmurs from San Antonio Spurs fans and critics that the team’s starting backcourt should be split up. But why give up on a tandem that hasn’t even been given a chance to show what it can do? With an emerging core of young talent on the verge of their first season leading the team, it would be a mistake to move off of Dejounte Murray or Derrick White before seeing them together this upcoming season.

Though each player has publicly commended DeMar DeRozan for his three exceptional years in silver and black, White and Murray should be the greatest beneficiaries of his departure. Over the last three years, these rising guard talents have put their own scoring output on the backburner in favor of the former All-Star.

For a Chicago front office under new leadership, adding DeRozan to be the final catalyst in a push to postseason contention was a logical next step. He was the best player available in the free-agent market and gives the Bulls a player they can rely on to generate offense. The scenario in San Antonio looks much different these days. Before DeRozan became the Spurs’ de facto No. 1 option, the organization had at least one All-NBA caliber player leading the way for two and a half decades.

There’s no rush for the Spurs to get back into a championship mindset right now. It’s the right time for Dejounte and Derrick to finally get on the court together consistently. Not only does that mean they’ll have increased scoring responsibilities, but they can play off of each other with more defensive-minded wings like Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell soaking up minutes that formerly belonged to DeRozan.

Earlier in the offseason, Zach Harper of The Athletic wrote that Murray and White are “gettable,” which doesn’t mean they are actively being shopped. Subsequently, each of their names has come up in Ben Simmons trade rumors on numerous occasions, whether it be in a package together or separately.

Regardless of the outside noise, it wouldn’t be like the San Antonio Spurs to dump something they’ve been building toward over five seasons. When healthy, Murray and White are two of the game’s most dynamic perimeter defenders. Between injuries, COVID protocols and a logjam at their position, the pair clocked just 695 minutes together last season. That’s the equivalent of sharing the floor for 30 minutes per game in only 23 regular-season games.

Separately and together, the White and Murray backcourt has shown considerable growth to date. Without much room for a ‘Most Improved Player’ level jump in the shadows of DeRozan and the other vets, there wasn’t enough of an opportunity for either of these players to truly ascend to the next level.

Unless a generational talent falls into the Spurs’ laps, they won’t get anywhere without giving their players a proper chance to blossom, and this year may be that time for White and Murray as a tandem.