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Why the Spurs Ran Out of Patience with Derrick White

Cal Durrett
San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets
San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages
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After five seasons with the team, Derrick White is shockingly no longer a member of the San Antonio Spurs following a trade deadline deal with the Boston Celtics. The deal sent White to Boston in exchange for Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, a 2022 first-round pick, and a 2028 pick swap.

While there were rumors of other teams having an interest in White, many Spurs fans likely didn't expect San Antonio to actually move him. Yet they ultimately did. So why did they decide to trade him? Let's delve deeper into why the Spurs ran out of patience with White.

Back in 2020 during the NBA bubble, White played the best basketball of his career, averaging nearly 19 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game. His offensive performance since then suggests that it was an aberration, given that he averaged just 15.4 points in the 2020-2021 season. This season, his scoring dipped even further despite a bigger role. Still, White appeared to have untapped offensive potential.

However, when taking a closer look at his NBA bubble performance, the thing that sticks out most was his 3-point shooting. He shot a blistering 39% from three on eight attempts per game, which helps explain his offensive outburst and why he hasn't been able to replicate it. After all, last season he averaged 6.8 3-point attempts per game but connected on just 34.6% of them.

Despite that, entering this season, White seemed like a great pick to lead the team in scoring given his offensive skill. Instead, he ranked just third. Part of that has to do with his aggressiveness, or lack thereof, considering he doesn't look to score nearly as much as he should. 

That has been a problem this season, with the Spurs struggling to find a consistent second option after Dejounte Murray. That should've been White, but it became obvious that that wasn't going to happen.

Derrick White Never Reached 'Second-Option' Status

Without the possibility of White becoming a number one option or even a second option, his role as just a good starter was cemented. Don't get me wrong, he does a lot of things well but not quite well enough for him to be untouchable in trade talks. Thus, the Spurs decided to trade him, mainly for a first-round pick that currently projects to be 18th overall.

While White will certainly be missed, especially over the rest of this season, San Antonio was right to move him while his value was still high. Not only that, but they have his replacement on the roster already with Devin Vassell prepared to slide into the starting lineup and contribute.

Additionally, Vassell still has two years remaining on his rookie-scale contract compared to White, who's in the first year of a 4-year, $73 million deal. Financial reasons aside, it's clear that the Spurs have a larger plan, and acquiring an additional first (two with the Thaddeus Young trade to Toronto) is key towards implementing it.

San Antonio now has three first-rounders, each likely to land inside of the top 20, giving them plenty of assets and options. Most likely, the plan is to trade up into the top three of the draft (which may not be necessary depending on their record and lottery luck). That could put San Antonio in a position to draft a future superstar to pair with Murray, their current star.

As talented as White is, he simply wasn't ever going to be that, especially at age 27, where players are more or less finished products by then. As a result, the Spurs made a calculated risk to try and improve the team by moving a good player to hopefully draft a great player a few months from now. It's not without risk, but with Vassell appearing ready to step up, the Spurs' decision to trade White makes plenty of sense.

Ultimately, White's time with the team was a success even if his departure feels abrupt. It shouldn't be forgotten that he was taken 29th overall and managed to develop into a good starter, which is quite the feat, even despite the Spurs' high success rate when drafting late in the first round.

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That said, despite showing tantalizing flashes of becoming a high-end scorer and playmaker, it became clear this season that he wasn't ever going to be the player that they hoped he be. Therefore, the Spurs decided to make a drastic change in hopes of improving the team around Murray, and White, unfortunately, had to go.

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