Derrick White's unconventional path to the San Antonio Spurs
Derrick White was taken in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft by the Spurs at number 29, which is nothing to sniff at. Folks will remember him balling out for the University of Colorado Buffaloes. What most people do not know is that he only played for them for one year.
The first three years of his collegiate career were played in Colorado Springs at Division II UCCS. He was only lightly recruited out of high school and played in the G League for the Spurs' affiliate up in Austin.
White came up the hard way in terms of making it in the hoops universe, overcoming adversity and making a name for himself. We saw a glimpse of the starlike caliber of player he can be in the NBA, and then he went down. This injury was a blessing in disguise, because now he is back flying below that radar I keep mentioning. And when he gets above it this time around, he will know what to expect when the attention starts back up.
I am historically not a huge stats guy but the numbers I came across back the importance of White to a degree of clearness that is rare for a player not considered one of the “elite”.
The fact is, the Spurs are monumentally better with him on the court. I was blown away by these numbers. The net rating differential with and without him is about 17 points. He is a key part of the winning formula, more important than the role player that some might consider him as. This past season is evidence of that. The Spurs' decline happened during the same time frame White went down.
Teams can lose certain role players, even key sixth men who come off the bench, and still be ok. At the same time, you can’t have star players get injured and be ok. If the numbers pulled are any indication, White is more than just an import piece to the Spurs puzzle. He belongs as San Antonio’s best go-to option, one that some may have thought the Spurs would have to find in free agency and sell the farm to get.
Derrick White has this unique blend of just enough talent, blue collar attitude and now experience to go beyond any ceiling that we might think he has. If he stays healthy, will we see Derrick White rise to stardom in the upcoming seasons and lead San Antonio back to glory?
Let’s just say you might want to consider removing that Ben Simmons Spurs jersey from the shopping cart. You won’t need it.