As a standalone transaction, the suddenly dangerous Celtics acquired Derrick White, a malleable two-way role player who’s under contract through 2025, in his prime and already familiar with the offensive system head coach Ime Udoka has implemented in Boston. With Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford (who couldn’t quite crack Udoka’s rotation) and a top-four protected first-round pick heading out the door, it’s a talent upgrade in the short and long-term that complements Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Rob Williams.
CELTICS GRADE: A-
White is comfortable handling the ball, and, despite spacing issues, has actually done a decent job in spots as San Antonio’s primary pick-and-roll playmaker—crucial on a team that just lost Dennis Schröder and Josh Richardson. White has one of the best floaters in basketball and does a great job keeping plays alive when downhill off a screen. White also takes care of the ball and is averaging a career high 5.6 assists per game.
His three-point shooting is down this year (White has been particularly wretched from the corner), but as a third, fourth or fifth option in most lineups he’ll have a beat longer to launch spot-up looks. He made 37% of his catch-and-shoot threes last year and 39% in 2020. The Celtics have mauled opponents with their dual-big starting five, but down the stretch of close games (and perhaps full-time in the playoffs, depending on who they face), White is ideal next to Marcus Smart, Brown, Tatum and Williams. White is a scrappy, intuitive defender who doesn’t mind sacrificing his body. He’ll fit nicely onto a Celtics team that switches more than any other in the league. Boston’s top seven is now as complete and versatile as any in the conference, with far more certainty going forward than they had yesterday.
SPURS GRADE: A-
In addition to scooping up a lottery-protected first-round pick from the Raptors earlier today, the Spurs grab a top-four protected first from the Celtics, plus a wing prospect, in this deal. They also get off the $53 million that’s left on White’s contract, opening up even more cap space for a front office that will have plenty of flexibility this offseason.
White was a solid backcourt partner for Dejounte Murray and appreciated in San Antonio for all the subtle ways he impacted winning. But at 27 years old, he’s also at a stage in his career where he ultimately makes more sense on a team with loftier ambition.
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The Spurs have full-on embraced their rebuild and are grabbing assets left and right with the hope of making it as quick and painless as possible. If they snag a top-3 pick in this year’s draft, in part because they no longer have one of their best team defenders, all the better. Those other firsts could be valuable if they want to move up a spot or two, too.
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