On this episode, the boys down under breakdown the losses to the Knicks and Cavaliers and the general malaise surrounding the Celtics. The biggest point of contention on our minds are the relatively limited minutes Derrick White has been playing since the All-Star break (Cavs game aside given the absences). He was playing 27 minutes per game going into the Cavs game over that stretch, and our position is pretty simple: feed us more Derrick.
If you look at the ten best 2-man lineups since the break, Derrick White is in 8 of them (minimum 50 minutes). His net rating over that span is a team leading 13.4, Brogdon is second at 9.6. I know this is a tiny sample size, but the results all season have been pretty clear: the Celtics are simply better when Derrick White is on the court. When a guy constantly does stuff like this, it’s pretty easy to see why.
"He makes so many winning plays."— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) March 6, 2023
Derrick White just won't STOP making the right play pic.twitter.com/79LqXL1ZtZ
Derrick White blowing up a 3v1 fastbreak. 1st Team All-Defense. pic.twitter.com/QRUj3yZvgW— Pull up shoot (@NElGHT_) March 7, 2023
We discussed it at length with his dad last week. Here’s a brief clip where I called Derrick a “Little Things All-Star” which sounds condescending, but I didn’t mean it that way!
That begs the question, who does Derrick take minutes from? The common refrain is Grant Williams, and I can see that argument. He’s been in a slump and reluctant to shoot (although he fired away against the Cavs), but he’s down to 22 minutes a night (and has racked up a DNP), which is massively boosted by the Knicks game where he broke 40 minutes. Even still, the Celtics are outscoring teams by 1.5 points per 100 possessions with Grant on the floor since the break, despite him being in a Antartica-level cold slump. Going into the Cavs game, he had made just four field goals during this timeframe. That’s not great. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s bad.
It pains me to say this, but I think the short-term answer is pretty obvious. And again, I want to stress that this is the short-term answer. It’s Marcus Smart. He’s playing around 34 minutes a night since coming back from injury, and it’s not been pretty. His scoring doesn’t jump out at you as overly terrible, 13.3 points per game on 54.3 TS%. Not good, but not crazy bad for Smart. It’s the playmaking drop that’s concerned me since his return. His assist percentage has taken a nosedive so daring Goose and Maverick would be jealous. He’s at a career high 27.3% for the season, but since his return it’s 17.5%. That’s unacceptable for a guy that’s a primary ballhandler. White is at 18.8% over that span despite playing off-ball a lot more often in lineups with either or both of Smart and Tatum (Tatum is at 30.6 assist percentage!).
I’m not advocating for White to take 20 of Smart’s minutes and drop him to a bench role (also that would mean White is playing 47 minutes, which seems like too many). But if you move 6-7 minutes from Smart to White while Smart gets back to full speed after the injury, it may stabilize the team a bit during this rough stretch. Regardless of who the minutes come from though, one thing is clear: the more Derrick White, the better.
Really hope you enjoy this episode, and please check out our last episode where we interviewed Derrick’s dad, Richard. You may have heard, but we are leaving the CelticsBlog podcast feed at the end of March, so please subscribe to the First to the Floor podcast feed and our YouTube channel. We appreciate everyone’s support and thanks for listening!