The Celtics cashed in their first round pick and salary filler for a guard in Derrick White. The 27-year-old has made a nice leap as a playmaker this season, posting a career-best assist rate, which should help a Boston team in major need of more passing. The Spurs were going nowhere this year, so salvaging a first round pick that should be around No. 20 in exchange for White is nice business by the Spurs. San Antonio should now have three first round picks in this draft with their own, Boston’s, and Toronto’s. If White can lean into being more a connecting piece between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, this could be a nice win for Boston. White is also a tenacious backcourt defender who should make the Celtics defense even more intimidating.
I love this pickup for the Celtics. Boston has been struggling to put together some depth in their backcourt. Dennis Schröder has not been the answer, and when is the last time you felt consistently good about Payton Pritchard getting minutes? Outside of Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, there just hasn’t been enough competence within the Celtics’ backcourt. That’s where Derrick White comes in. He’s exactly the type of player the Celtics need to sprinkle in, and his versatility means you can get away with starting him or bringing him first off the bench.
His three-point shooting is down this year (White has been particularly wretched from the corner), but as a third, fourth or fifth option in most lineups he’ll have a beat longer to launch spot-up looks. He made 37% of his catch-and-shoot threes last year and 39% in 2020. The Celtics have mauled opponents with their dual-big starting five, but down the stretch of close games (and perhaps full-time in the playoffs, depending on who they face), White is ideal next to Marcus Smart, Brown, Tatum and Williams. White is a scrappy, intuitive defender who doesn’t mind sacrificing his body. He’ll fit nicely onto a Celtics team that switches more than any other in the league. Boston’s top seven is now as complete and versatile as any in the conference, with far more certainty going forward than they had yesterday.
He’s sort of like a more sedate Smart: a strong 6-foot-4 combo guard who can handle defensive assignments across multiple positions, and who’s not a point-god-level facilitator on offense but can comfortably handle the ball and run secondary actions. He might not offer the same north-south pop as Dennis Schröder (more on him in a minute), and he might not be as much of a threat to knock down a catch-and-shoot 3 as Payton Pritchard, but he’s more reliable—a steadier option to have on the floor against really good opponents, especially in the context of a playoff series. And with three more guaranteed years on his deal, White fits neatly into the core of a Celtics team whose most important contributors are all 27 and under, and all locked up for at least two more seasons.
Furthermore, White is a tremendous perimeter defender who can guard multiple positions and will fit right in on a Celtics team that has leaned on its defense this season. In this recent 13-4 run, the Celtics have a 99.7 defensive rating which is top of the league and nearly five points per 100 possessions better than any other team during that span. They are completely smothering teams, and will now be even better. White and Smart will be perhaps the best defensive backcourt in the league.
In the end, though, you have to appreciate the talent play from the Celtics. They have the bodies to remain a defensive terror and didn’t surrender any cornerstone assets. If White hits his threes at a higher clip or can shoulder more of the half-court floor-general burden, Boston will come out of this trade smelling like a rose—and poised to cause a ruckus in a wiiiiide-open Eastern Conference.