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Jan 28, 2017; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) after the game against the Oregon Ducks at Coors Events Center. The Buffaloes defeated the Ducks 74-65. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs selected Derrick White with the 29th overall pick in the NBA draft. Here are five reasons why White was a good selection for the Spurs.
Thursday night the San Antonio Spurs added another multi-dimensional talent to their roster late in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. Derrick White is a 6’5″, 190-pound guard who could play multiple positions for the Spurs in time.
White played just the one season at Colorado after transferring, but he sure made that year count. He averaged 18.3 points, 4.3 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. His ability to stuff the stat sheet immediately at the Division I level bodes well for his ability to transfer his game to the NBA. He may never excel in any one aspect of the game, but has enough skill all around to make an impact.
Only time will tell what White’s role will be with the team. With multiple free agents in the backcourt he could see minutes right away. Or we could see him playing spot minutes and making a key play or two every game, just like most Spurs rookies do.
With that in mind, here are five reasons Derrick White was a good pick for the San Antonio Spurs.
May 14, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) high fives guard Patty Mills (8) after a play against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter in game one of the Western conference finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
This summer, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills and Jonathon Simmons will all be free agents. This is basically the team’s second unit on the perimeter that are all free to walk away.
While it is likely San Antonio can retain one of these players, keeping all three could be a stretch, as Ginobili could retire and Mills and Simmons will draw big money. In the event all three are not in a Spurs uniform in 2017-18, White could be a pretty important piece on next season’s team.
Right now White is a combo guard, who has the passing and IQ to play the point, and the size and shooting to play the 2. But in the evolving NBA where positions are more often categorized as point guards, wings and bigs, White could end up playing all over the court.
With Dejounte Murray lying in wait, White may only need to play spot minutes at point guard this year. But if Simmons and/or Ginobili decide to go in a different direction, there will be minutes to go around.
Dec 7, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) attempts a successful three point attempt over Xavier Musketeers guard Edmond Sumner (4) in the final seconds of the second half at the Coors Events Center. The Buffaloes defeated the Musketeers 68-66. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Today’s NBA is so reliant on role players who can shoot from deep. As mentioned previously, Ginobili and Mills are free agents this year. They were also two of the team’s best three-point shooters last season. Even if the Spurs were able to keep both players, you can never have enough shooting on your team, and that’s where White can help out.
Last season at Colorado, White shot 40 percent from behind the arc with nearly two makes per game. There is no reason for him to not find that same success at the next level, with a quick, high release he should be able to get those shots up.
He can also make his shots off the dribble or in catch-and-shoot situations. Playing out of the pick-and-roll a lot last year, White can make defenders pay for going under the screen. But his ability as a spot-up shooter will likely be more important in the Spurs’ offense, which involves ball movement creating open looks.
Dec 7, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard Bryce Peters (23) and forward Wesley Gordon (1) and guard Thomas Akyazili (0) and guard Derrick White (21) and forward Lucas Siewert (25) celebrate the win over the Xavier Musketeers at the Coors Events Center. The Buffaloes defeated the Musketeers 68-66. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Upside is not really a word you attribute to a 23-year-old rookie, but White is a different case. He played just the lone season at the D-I level this year after transferring. For him to step on the court for the first time and fill up the stat sheet the way he did in one year, it gives a similar feel as a successful 19-year-old freshman might.
White’s potential is not just measured by how he can improve his game, but also what playing for the Spurs can do for him. White is not the most athletic player on the court, and he does not have superb length.
But it was thanks to his basketball IQ that he averaged 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals per game in spite of that. He also was able to get to the basket for looks at the rim, despite not being the fastest or bounciest player on the court. For a player who thrives off of awareness and good basketball instincts to join the San Antonio Spurs, it’s almost just not fair.
White is going to learn a ton playing for this team. He is also going to be put into position to score, defend well and create for others. Constantly being put in position to succeed will eventually allow White to put himself in those positions, thus making him a better player.
Feb 23, 2017; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) reacts during the second half against the Utah Utes at the Coors Events Center. The Utes defeated the Buffaloes 86-81. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
White did not have your typical journey to the NBA. He didn’t even have a typical journey to college basketball. As a 6’0″ combo guard in high school, he had zero scholarships from Division I schools. He got a late offer from a Division II university to come play basketball on a partial scholarship. Partial.
There are 16- and 17-year-olds out there who know they will go to a top school for free for one year then go to the NBA, and Derrick White was getting a single, partial offer for Division II.
His humble beginnings forced White to keep working hard, and that likely won’t change now that he’s made it. These traits will be important for being a Spur, as it is known egos get checked at the door day one. If he stays true to these characteristics he should fit with the team nicely moving forward.
Jan 28, 2017; Boulder, CO, USA; Oregon Ducks forward Dillon Brooks (24) and guard Casey Benson (2) defend Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) in the second half at Coors Events Center. The Buffaloes defeated the Ducks 74-65. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
What White’s skills all really boil down to is that he’s versatile. He can do a little bit of everything on the basketball court. He scores at all three levels, can create offense, uses his size for rebounds and is a good defender when engaged.
One of the most valued positions in the NBA is a two-way wing. In the position-less NBA we talk about, you want these guys situated between your point guard and big man. White is cut from this type of cloth that people are looking for. He doesn’t have quite the length or athleticism people normally think of in this role, but the skills are there.
His offense is already there for this role. He is a good shooter who knows when to rip through and go at the basket. If he doesn’t have a shot, he can keep the ball moving or get someone a better look with his passing ability. Defensively he still has a little work to do. His 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals per game show he can make plays, but he will have to learn how to defend the bigger, more athletic wings players in the league.
He’s still young, and relatively “inexperienced” with the single year at Division I. But playing with the Spurs will give him the chance to come into his own as a player. He has enough talent to make an impact right away, but in time could become a starter for a very good team.