The Jrue Holiday trade consumed all of the attention surrounding the Boston Celtics at the end of the summer. Boston managed to replace the defensive presence of Marcus Smart while also adding a guy who shoots near-40% from beyond the arc.
But they already had that on the roster.
Amidst all the chaos of the Celtics’ trade-filled summer, Derrick White was somehow lost in the shuffle. Debates regarding Holiday’s starting spot and Kristaps Porzingis’ potential impact have overshadowed the fact that Boston has another All-Defensive, three-point sniper on the roster.
While Holiday was named to the All-Defensive First Team last year, White made the All-Defensive Second Team. Holiday shot 38.4% from deep on 6.1 attempts per game; White shot 38.1% on 4.8 attempts.
The addition of Holiday into Boston’s system was met with widespread praise and relief, and rightfully so, as the Celtics had solidified their depth at the point guard position. But to act as if White wasn’t fully ready to assume the role is amnesic.
It was just a few months ago that the Celtics named White their starting point guard. And just weeks before that, White was a top-2 player on the Celtics on any given night during the playoffs.
Most will recall his game-winning layup, but the memorable moment was encapsulated by a postseason run full of greatness and one that earned him the complete trust of the Celtics organization.
“Derrick White is assuredly someone that the Celtics front office and coaching staff is very, very high on,” Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer told Sam LaFrance and I on the How ‘Bout Them Celtics podcast when asked about a potential extension.
In the Celtics’ first preseason game, with a fully healthy rotation, White got the nod over Holiday in the starting lineup. And while Joe Mazzulla urged people not to read into his lineup decisions early on, White’s place among the starters should not be cast aside because of the timing of the Holiday deal.
Holiday has the All-Star nods and a championship ring, but White is still as crucial as ever to the Celtics’ short and long-term plans.
“I’m not necessarily sure if the starting lineup that had Jrue Holiday on the bench behind Derrick White, behind Al Horford, was just because Jrue was getting into the swing of things,” said Fischer. “Clearly, Boston traded two first-round picks and two key rotation players from last year to go get Jrue Holiday. They value him. But that’s not to mean they value Jrue Holiday more than Derrick White.
“That’s kind of the picture I can paint from my standpoint of just how high the Celtics are on what he can do on both sides of the floor, across multiple positions, and being that guard next to Jaylen [Brown] and Jayson [Tatum].”
White reminded people of his top-notch play on Wednesday night in the Celtics’ second preseason win over the Philadelphia 76ers. He finished with 11 points, three rebounds, four assists, two steals, and three blocks while shooting 4-of-8 from the field and 2-of-5 from beyond the arc.
His shot-blocking ability put him on the map as one of the most impactful rim protectors in the league last year and by far the best shot-blocking guard in the league. Against Philadelphia, he used this skill to turn offense into defense, highlighting the best version of himself.
D-White on both ends pic.twitter.com/pfltzDJsqC— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) October 11, 2023
Tyrese Maxey got the ball in transition, but White met him at the rim, stuffed him, ran down the other end, and nailed a three. On another occasion, he blocked Patrick Beverley on a pull-up jumper, grabbed the ball, and scored on the other end.
White is one of the best two-way players in the league, and last season, he moved himself from role-player status to starting-level guard. And even if he comes off the bench because of Holiday, he’ll be a 30-minute per game player throughout the course of the season.
ESPN’s Top 100 left White off the list, providing the perfect example of how quickly people forget about things when a shiny new object gets thrown in their face. But White should not and cannot be forgotten about.
He’s closer to an All-Star than a role player, and he’s set to remind people of that this season.