Buffs in the Bubble: Derrick White shines and Roberson is back

Adam Chalifoux

If the 2019-20 basketball season was a movie, the film would have stopped right as we were getting to the good part. March Madness was just days away when the pandemic that has affected the world put a stop to the rich American tradition that we have so appropriately and affectionately named March Madness. For Colorado Buffaloes basketball fans this hurt a little extra after the team showed serious promise at times during their 2019-20 campaign and looked sure to return to the dance for the first time since 2016. 

While college basketball never returned this year, the NBA took extraordinary measures in order to ensure the safety of their players and so far bubble ball, brought to you by Disney, has been the most magical sport on Earth. For CU loyalists, this also means getting to catch some of the best players in recent history and get after it to provide a much-needed Buffs basketball fix. Here is an update on the Buffs Bubble Ballers thus far…

Derrick White

White showed flashes of brilliance in the NBA playoffs last April as he sliced and diced the Denver Nuggets for a career-high 36 points, 26 of which came in the first half. White’s performance was enough to help the Spurs seal the deal, winning 118-108. In hindsight, it appears this was a little basketball foreshadowing as White has been the Spurs' best player in the bubble through their first three games.

A lot is on the line for the Spurs. The team has only missed the playoffs once since 1990 and are currently looking to sneak into the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive year. White has kept this dream alive by averaging just under 21 points per game so far as the starting point guard.

White’s return to meaningful basketball began with a bang, torturing the Kings with 26 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and included four 3-pointers. The sneakiest statistic however was his plus/minus. While Demar DeRozan’s 27 points led the team in scoring, White’s plus/minus showed that things went smoothly while he was on the floor with a game-high +19. White was the Spurs' best player in their 129-120 win over the Kings.

White followed up his monster game with another outstanding performance against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday. White made very few mistakes and fit perfectly into the Spurs team-ball culture, dishing seven assists with no turnovers. White cooled off from the field shooting just 25 percent from the field but his 16 points and six rebounds were key contributions in the Spurs must-win game against the Grizzlies who currently hold the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture. 

The Spurs' biggest challenge thus far in the restart came the following night against the star-studded Philadelphia 76ers. The Colorado native once again put together a Tony Parker stat line with 20 points. White is shooting a scorching hot .478 percent from deep in the bubble so far and went 4-for-6 versus the 76ers.

While the Spurs are in unfamiliar territory as a dark horse looking to sneak into the playoffs yet again, it has become clear that White has grown into a valuable element of their success thus far and a focal point of their offense. Look for White to continue to put up numbers as he has clearly begun to earn his stripes with Popovich. If you are looking for Buffs in the bubble to root for, White is the most exciting option. 

The Rest

While no other CU alumni is making the impact or even getting the playing time that White is enjoying, Alec Burks and Andre Roberson are also in Orlando doing whatever their respective teams ask of them. Burks, of the Philadelphia 76ers has played just 22 minutes thus far in the teams two seeding games. Burks boosted his value with some big games earlier in the NBA season with the Golden State Warriors which was enough for the former CU star to pique the interest of the 76ers who still struggle with a lack of backcourt depth. Unlike the Spurs, however, the 76ers may have a chance for a deep playoff run and could be the team with the best chance of getting a Buff a ring in the NBA.

Andre Roberson’s story is one of resilience and determination. Roberson returned to the court for the first time in over 900 days after rupturing his patellar tendon in January of 2018. Roberson eased back into things with five minutes against the Jazz before getting ten minutes versus the Nuggets on Monday. Although Roberson did not log major minutes, he was trusted with major responsibility. He played incredible defense on Troy Daniels as he looked to sink the would-be game-winner. Roberson’s defense sent the game to overtime. 

One of the best defenders in basketball, Roberson’s defensive metrics are astounding thus far even if it is in a small sample size. According to Statmuse.com Roberson has a defensive rating of 98.8 thus far. The only player in the NBA with a lower (that is a good thing) defensive rating is the reigning MVP and hot pick for Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokunmpo with a rating of 96.6. Roberson is still one of the best defenders in the league and will perhaps see his minutes increase as he comes back from his major injury. 

Next Chance to Catch the Forever Buffs

All three Bubble Buffs will be playing on Aug. 5. The Sixers will tip-off against the Washington Wizards at 2 p.m. MST. Meanwhile, the Derrick White show continues with a little Colorado flair as the Spurs will take on the Nuggets at the same time. Finally, the OKC Thunder will face the Lakers at 4:30 p.m. MST. 

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