It’s catch-up time here at CelticsBlog, after a week off from our regularly scheduled programming of anointing our Player of the Week. During the layoff, the Celtics played six games, going 5-1 in particularly gritty fashion as the team battled through a number of significant injuries. They scored wins over Brooklyn (by 43!), Detroit, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Memphis, with the lone letdown coming in a low-scoring rock fight against Phoenix.
Given that the week of January 30 consisted of just two games, we’re going to lump this two-week span together into one award. After all, our winner is pretty clear either way. But first, lets talk runners-up.
Sam Hauser lives! A cameo appearance in the starting lineup in relief of the injured Jaylen Brown appears to have revitalized the 25-year-old forward. After teetering on the fringes of the rotation since the start of the new year, Hauser has started three of the Celtics’ last four games, scoring in the double digits in all four and connecting on 19 three-pointers in all.
It’s for the best that Hauser has broken loose lately, as consistent contributors have been difficult to find, even as the Celtics have been winning games. Jayson Tatum has pendulum’d between terrific scoring performances and total clunkers, and the roster has been transient due to injuries and rest nights. Al Horford, Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams III acquitted themselves well enough in the games they played. Blake Griffin had a five-three night (!) against the 76ers.
In all, one name stands quite clear of the rest of the field this time around.
CelticsBlog Player of the Week #14: Derrick White
6 GP, 36.4 MPG, 21.8 PPG (52% FG, 49% 3PT), 5.7 REB, 6 AST, 0.8 BLK, +77
Don’t just take our word on how good Derrick White has been lately — take the NBA’s.
Eastern Conference Player of the Week! Derrick White! It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s the first time he’s earned the honor in his career — it’s one of the most remarkable accomplishments of the Celtics’ season to this point.
It can’t be overstated just how important White has been to this recent surge. With Marcus Smart remaining sidelined with an ankle sprain, he took on a spot in the starting lineup. With Jaylen Brown hitting the injured list with a facial fracture, that starting spot became all the more important. All he’s done as a response? Provide a compelling impression of Jaylen Brown. A stat line of 22-5-6 across these six games is nothing to sneeze at.
We’ve talked about White’s shooting ad nauseam since he joined the Celtics at the trade deadline. His three-point shot has been the biggest “what if?” piece of his game, as he sat below league average in his first half season with the team and, after a hot start to this year, leveled off dramatically in the month of December.
Well, how’s this for a response, then?
Derrick White has made multiple 3-pointers in 10 straight games.— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) February 13, 2023
That's the 2nd-longest active streak in the NBA behind Steph Curry's stretch of 38 games. pic.twitter.com/mim7pyWCpz
Is “Derrick White: 48% Three-Point Shooter” sustainable? Of course not. We just watched regression hunt him down like an apex predator two months ago. But if there were ever a time for something unsustainable, it’s now.
Against the Hornets, it was downright comical. A career-high 33 points (on a career-high 8 three-pointers) to go with 10 assists and three blocked shots — it’s the kind of performance that NBA role players dream of. On a night where Tatum scored 41, it was White who was unquestionably the best player on the floor. That’s no small praise.
The 33-10 game makes for a great headliner, but White’s run has been filled with strong performances. Two days later, he followed that game up with a 23-point, 10-assist performance against the Memphis Grizzlies, leading the team in both categories. Lets revisit Celtics in-house writer Taylor Snow for some context on just how impressive those consecutive games really are.
Full list of Celtics players who've logged at least four 3-pointers and 10 assists in back-to-back games:— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) February 14, 2023
Larry Bird pic.twitter.com/TOh7ISTJjt
Beyond the shooting, White has become an invaluable glue guy in the Boston rotation. Whatever the team needs, he will provide. He’s not going to score like Brown all season long, but when the Celtics have needed that extra scoring punch, he’s stepped up and produced. Without Smart leading the dance for the Celtics’ offense, White has stepped up as a playmaker, filling a more traditional point guard role. He’s a quality rebounder who grabbed 10 boards in the Brooklyn blowout and — oh yeah — he’s one of the best guard defenders in the Association.
The Celtics are the best team in the NBA, and as such, there hasn’t been much that’s gone off-schedule for them to this point. That isn’t to say things have gone smoothly, though; they haven’t always been consistent, and the injuries have started to pile up. But the Celtics have done what great teams do — they’ve found a way. Derrick White has been one of the most crucial pieces in making that happen, and established himself as one of this team’s most valuable performers in the process.
Looking ahead, just two games stand between the Celtics and the All-Star Break. On Tuesday, they’ll travel to Milwaukee for a high-profile tilt against the Bucks, likely absent a significant part of their rotation. After that, they’ll host the Detroit Pistons on Thursday evening, before earning some much-needed rest. Who will be our final pre-All Star Break Player of the Week? Could it be Derrick White once more? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.