The Boston Celtics have been one of the best teams in the NBA since the trade deadline. They boast a record of 20-6 post-deadline, and a major factor in that success is their defense. Boston ended the regular season with a defensive rating of 106.2, ranking them at the top of the league. It’s easy to understand why when you look at their personnel. Marcus Smart is a DPOY candidate. Robert Williams III is an excellent anchor who has received some All-Defensive buzz. Al Horford is always solid. Jayson Tatum is playing the best defense of his career.
Beyond those top dogs, there is one player who is more important to the C’s than most people realize. That guy is Derrick White.
White, the 29th pick in the 2017 draft, became a fan favorite in San Antonio during his tenure there due to his elite defense. Acquired by Boston at the deadline, his All-League guarding ability has played a huge part in their post-deadline prosperity.
Seriously, White is flat-out sensational on D. He does so many different things on that end that make him one of the top guard defenders in the association.
The standout attribute of White’s defense is his excellent lateral movement. He moves quickly and changes direction with ease, and he rarely gets beat.
Very few people can stay in front of Ja Morant when he gets downhill, but White does so here and forces the miss with a little help from Williams.
Here he does a great job. Cade tries to shake him with a few crossovers and a spin with no luck.
He puts the clamps on here, forcing Hield into a tough jumper.
This is just impeccable.
Even if an offensive player does get an advantage downhill on White, they’re driving on one of the top shot-blocking guards in the league. He often hits unsuspecting drivers with a chase-down rejection.
Here Thad Young sets a nice screen, but White recovers and erases VanVleet’s pull up.
White is just overall solid. Here, when matched up with the bigger Olynyk, he stays strong and strips the ball away.
This is textbook clamps, forcing a tough shot and getting a contest without even jumping, annoying the foul-seeking Middleton.
It’s impossible to talk about White’s defense without mentioning his trademark charge-taking. He ranked in the top five in charges taken per game and total charges taken for the 2021-22 season.
Derrick White is undoubtedly awesome on defense, but what makes him a true X factor is his offense. He’s a guy you can trust when he has the ball in his hands and can be the glue that holds the offense together.
He’s improved his point guard skills this season, and he can get the ball to the open man effectively. His 3.1 assist-to-turnover ratio places him inside the top 25 in the league.
He can make plays off the drive, whether it’s a kick-out:
Or a dump-off.
This is a nice read- he sees the help collapsing and throws a perfect lob to Theis.
As a scorer, White has struggled a little this season. He knocked down just 31% of his deep-range tries in 26 games with Boston (although he did hit 44% from the corner), but when he is hitting his shots it’s the cherry on top.
Derrick White has been one of the more underrated players over the last few seasons. While he doesn’t always jump out on the stat sheet, he makes so many winning plays. He can fit in any lineup and elevate it. Boston has their eyes on a championship this postseason, and White will be crucial in them achieving that goal.