It’s once again time to appoint our CelticsBlog Player of the Week, and unfortunately, the Celtics haven’t made it terribly easy on us this time around. Last week’s slate of games was one of the rougher patches the team has faced this season, coming away from a four-game slate with just one solitary win (itself requiring a late comeback and a lucky no-call to come to fruition).
The Celtics kicked the week off with a Florida-bound back-to-back against the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, both of which were losses — with the former becoming the first team to win a season series against Boston this year. From there, they returned home to face the New York Knicks, losing a late-game heartbreaker, before hosting the arch-rival Los Angeles Lakers in a down-to-the-wire overtime win. In all, a 1-3 record and a fairly limited pool of candidates for this week’s award. Let’s get into it.
It was a tough week for the team, so it follows that our candidate pool isn’t terribly deep this time around. The Celtics are struggling through injuries and rather disjointed play on the court, and one or both of those two factors limited most of the players on the team.
Jayson Tatum averaged 30 points for the week — standard operating procedure for him at this point — but shot 43% from the field and averaged nearly five turnovers per game, including an 8-of-25 shooting line against the Lakers. Jaylen Brown had a brilliant 37-point performance to lead the comeback against Los Angeles, but shot 8-of-22 and missed the potential go-ahead free throws at the end of overtime against the Knicks, and also did not play against the Heat for rest purposes. Robert Williams remains incredibly productive when he plays, but sat out the first half of the back-to-back and missed the Lakers game with an ankle injury.
In all, there was only one player on this team that was both consistently healthy and consistently productive last week.
CelticsBlog Player of the Week #15: Derrick White
3 GP, 31 MPG, 15.8 PPG (46% FG, 43% 3PT), 3.8 RPG, 4 APG, 1.5 BPG
Only one Celtic has appeared in all 51 games for the team this season: Derrick White. Entering the season expected to come off the bench as the team’s third (or fourth, if you count Brown) guard, the transient nature of the team’s lineups amidst various injury issues have pressed him into a much more prominent role. He’s started 43 of those games, and averaged 26.4 minutes per night — sixth-most on the team.
He’s become this team’s Mr. Consistency. Though, alongside many on the roster, he slumped drastically in the month of December, White has found way to provide consistent and reliable volume all year long. His availability and malleability have both been huge benefits to this Celtics roster — there’s real merit to being available and effective every night, regardless of what role might be put in front of you.
In Part 2 of our series on New Year’s resolutions for the roster, I wrote that the Celtics are better off with White actively and confidently involved in the offense. That’s exactly what we saw from him in the month of January, and this final week was his best. He scored in double figures and cashed in on multiple three-pointers in all four games, the first time he’s had such a stretch since late November. With the Celtics shorthanded in the guard room due to injuries to Brown and Marcus Smart, there couldn’t have been a more timely moment for such a run.
Perhaps most welcome has been a return to form for White as a shooter. After a dreadful December that saw him connect on just 23.5% of his three-point attempts, White bounced back to a 37% mark across 15 games in January, including 8-of-19 last week.
This is closer to the real version of White as a shooter. He was never going to maintain the 40+% clip he recorded in the early weeks of the season, but he’s also far better than his sub-30% self of December. The Derrick White Experiment has always been that introducing him to better offensive spacing than he saw in San Antonio’s rebuilding years could lead to an uptick in his three-point output, and this feels much more like a realization of that ideal. It’s as simple as knocking down open looks, and he’s seeing a lot more of them than he ever has before.
Also worth mentioning: for a guard, White’s shot-blocking has been just a bit ridiculous. He’s now swatted 48 shots in 51 games — 27th in the NBA, and 13 clear of the next guard on the list (Denver’s Bruce Brown, 35). CelticsBlog’s Greg Brueck-Cassoli wrote about White’s outlier shot-blocking a couple weeks back, and that analysis remains relevant here. White swatted six shots across these four games.
The ball is just never safe in White’s vicinity. Right now, he has a very real pathway towards earning a spot on the NBA’s All-Defense roster.
This was a workmanlike week from Derrick White, and while that might not be the most exciting choice, that doesn’t make it any less deserving. Coming up next, it’s a bite-sized Player of the Week; after a much-needed long stretch of rest, the Celtics have just two games on the docket. On Wednesday, they’ll face the Kevin Durant-less Brooklyn Nets and on Friday, they’ll face the Devin Booker-less Phoenix Suns, both at home. Who will step up and claim this week’s award? Let us know your predictions in the comments below.