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Is Derrick White next in line for an extension?

In an interview with ESPN's Malika Andrews, the Celtics' starting point guard discussed a new role, his love for Boston, and the team’s championship expectations. 

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, Derrick White appeared on ESPN’s “NBA Today”, donning a newly-shaved head that made headlines earlier in the week as he expressed excitement for the year ahead.

He shared with Malika Andrews that he was excited for his new role as the team’s starting point guard (as confirmed by Joe Mazzula last month), and most notably, that he would like to sign an extension before the season starts, if the opportunity presents itself.

“I love being here in Boston. It would be cool to get an extension,” White said. “We’ll see what happens during that window, but I’ve loved my time in Boston so far and my focus right now is just on the season.”

White is currently entering the third year of a four-year, $73 million extension he signed with the Spurs in 2020. He will have the chance to negotiate a three-year extension with the team during a brief, three-week window in September. In other words, now that Jaylen Brown’s extension is in the rearview, we can turn our attention to the next prospective contract saga.

It remains to be seen whether the Celtics will offer White the kind of extension he’s seeking, and on the heels of Brown signing the richest contract in NBA history, the team’s long-term cap space is limited. But, the Celtics should expend all options to extend White, because if all goes according to plan, his value could be a whole lot higher in future years.

Why the Celtics should bet on Derrick White

The hard nosed defender is coming off of a productive 2022-23 campaign, where he averaged 12.4 points per game on 46% shooting, including a career-high 38.1% from three.

His numbers rose in the playoffs — he averaged 13.4 points on 50.5% shooting, including a team-best 45.5% from three. A stellar run was capped off by a historic Game 6 putback buzzer-beater that extended the Celtics season, which made White only the second player in NBA history to stave off elimination with a game winner (Michael Jordan was the first).

And as much as he impressed offensively, defense remained White’s calling card throughout the year — he led all guards in blocks, with 76 on the season, and was named to the All-Defensive Second Team.

In Smart’s absence, White is expected to play a bigger offensive role, and while pundits have spent the summer debating whether he will thrive in that position, he doesn’t appear fazed by the challenge.

“I’m looking forward to it,” White said. “I’ll definitely have the ball in my hands, more of a playmaker role, and I’m looking forward to grow with the team and just get us in the right position each and every time.”

White started 70 games last season (out of 82 played), but averaged only 28.3 minutes per game and often found himself on the bench down the stretch in close games, with Joe Mazzulla typically deferring to Malcolm Brogdon and Marcus Smart in the back court. But in the 21 regular season games that Smart missed last season, White averaged 15.4 points per game — the same number of points he averaged in his 2021 Spurs campaign.

“I don’t think it will be a big adjustment,” White said. “I’m just going to have the ball in my hands more, which I’ve done pretty much most of my career, so just getting back to that and just getting the guys in the right spot.”

The star trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kristaps Porzingis should make his job a whole lot easier. “The things he [Porzingis] can do on the court are special,” White said on Tuesday. “He had a game against us last season where he was unreal. To add a guy like that to our team, we’re all looking forward to it. It’s going to add a different dimension to our team.”

What an extension could mean for the franchise

If the Celtics and White can agree to an extension, they effectively ensure the Tatum-Brown-Porzingis-White core is locked down for the foreseeable future.

The Celtics have now secured Jaylen Brown through the 2027-28 season (with a 5-year, $304 million supermax extension last week), and Kristaps Porzingis through the 2025-26 season (with a two-year, $60 million extension signed earlier last month).

Tatum, who’s already made All-NBA for two consecutive seasons, will be eligible to sign his own supermax next offseason. Having just completed the second year of his current five-year extension, Tatum will have the option of signing through the 2029-30 season. Tatum’s extension will likely be even richer than Brown’s, given that the NBA will be negotiating a new media rights deals which is expected to increase the cap.

Horford, Brogdon and White are all currently set to become free agents in the 2025 offseason. Horford will be 39 by that time, and could be eyeing retirement after signing a team-friendly, two-year extension in December. Brogdon’s future in Boston is unclear, especially considering he was originally – and very publicly – the main trade piece in the initial Porzingis deal, before the Clippers pulled out and Marcus Smart got shipped to Memphis.

So, all signs point to the Celtics viewing Derrick White as a critical part of the future. And good news for fans – it sounds like White recognizes that the only success for this core is a championship.

“Boston’s a title town. That’s what they expect from us, that’s what they want from us each and every year,” White said. “Obviously we’ve been right there the last couple years and it’s just little things each and every year that we gotta do a better job of in the playoffs and it starts from Day 1. We just gotta continue to put together good days and I like our chances next year.”

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