Was the Derrick White Trade Worth It For the Boston Celtics? Who is Derrick White?

The Derrick White trade was a surprising one when it was first broken during the chaotic times of the trade deadline. Boston exchanged Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, and two picks for Derrick White.

Since the trade, the Celtics have won 10 out of the last 12 games they’ve played. He has averaged about 10 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 block.

Shortly after the trade, in an interview, head coach Ime Udoka said that “He checks a ton of boxes. He's a perfect fit on and off the court. A guy who's going to come right in and be selfless, work hard offensively and defensively. He'll do a lot of things for us -- another guy with good length who can add versatility to our group.”

With their recent elevation of play, Udoka looks like he was right on the money about Derrick White. He has seemingly been an amazing addition to an already-amazing roster.

It has been a few weeks since the trade, and now we can look back to see if this trade was worth it, at least in the short term, with a healthy 12 game sample size.

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photo by Maddie Malhotra\Getty Images

A Look into Derrick White’s Background

Derrick White being guarded by an All-State player in an unathletic stance back in the year 2010
"Derrick White, being guarded by Doherty all-state guard Brevin Brimble in 2010, struggled with athleticism in high school. As you can see in the picture he played with straight up and down instead of in athletic positions." (Nick Graham)

Derrick White in a defensive stance during a game at Legend High School
"To say Derrick White, pictured here as a freshman at Legend High School, was a late bloomer would be an understatement. Richard White credits his son’s tenure at Legend High School as the reason he has a chance to play in the NBA." (Nick Graham)

Before he came to the Boston Celtics, Derrick White was a lifelong San Antonio Spur. As an NBA player, he was drafted to what can be called one of the best development organizations in the league. His coach, Greg Popovich, can be considered not only the greatest coach in the history of the NBA, but also in all of sports.

Before that, Derrick White went to the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs (UCCS), playing for their team for three years, and then for UC – Boulder for his final year.  He had no college offers in high school. In his 8th grade year, he was on the B-team of his school's basketball team. Of course, this tends to either break someone, or make them into a person with a legendary work ethic. White went through the latter, becoming All-American in 2015, averaging 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Derrick White with his hands on his waist and hips with an exasperated look on his face in the middle of a college basketball game

He was drafted 29th in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Spurs. That is where the Boston Celtic’s current head coach, Ime Udoka, first met White. Unfortunately, he fractured his hand in a G-League game on November 5th, 2017. He was out for months. He played 17 games, averaging 3 points, and 1.5 rebounds in 8 minutes. Next season seemed to be better, until he tore his left plantar fascia. He was out for a bit, coming back in November.

The 2018-19 NBA Playoffs had Derrick White score career high 36 points on 71% shooting against the Denver Nuggets on April 18th, securing a win. Even though they lost the series in seven games, White had come out of his shell. He paired the points with 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. During this series, he showed that he was a force you must plan for.

His career trajectory continued the uptrend into the 2019-20 NBA season. Derrick White had 7 games of 20 points or above. He averaged 3 rebounds and 3 assists during this season as well. He had more than 30 games of four or more assists, and more than 30 games with more than four rebounds. He also had more than 10 games with two steals or more. An all-around combo guard just as he was described.

Derrick White looking straight forward and ahead while in the middle of a game while he was on the San Antonio Spurs
(AP/ Darren Abate)

The 2020-21 NBA season seemed to be his full breakout year. In 30 minutes, he was averaging 15.4 points, 3.5 assists, and 3 rebounds. He shot 85 percent from the free throw line, and his effective field goal percentage was a healthy 50%.  He was shooting a respectable 34.6% from the three-point line as well. Sadly, White’s history with injury followed him to this season too, ending it early. In April, he suffered a left ankle sprain, after already missing the first 18 games of the season due to the same toe. He was sidelined for the remainder of the season.

The 2021-22 NBA season had Derrick White return to his former career high play. Before being traded to the Boston Celtics, he was averaging 14.4 points, 5.6 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1 block per game. Clearly, the injury that sidelined him did nothing to halt his improvement at all aspects of the game. The front office of the Celtics saw that and thought of him as a valuable addition. They then traded for him. Since then, his play has improved the team, and is a crucial reason for their return to championship contending form.   

The Present Day, and the Near Future

Derrick White in the middle of an athletic play and about to pass the ball while being guarded by a Denver Nuggets player
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Derrick White is a crucial asset while he is on the floor. He brings every important attribute you can think of, such as playmaking, defense, and scoring as well. His contract stands at only 17$ million dollars per year, a great value. He’s also on contract until 2025, meaning he will be contributing to the team in a big way as our young roster enters their primes.

Similar contracts to Derrick White include Duncan Robinson, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac, Lauri Markkanen and Davis Bertans. All these player’s contracts have them becoming a free agent in 2025, like Derrick White and are valued between 16-18.25 million dollars. Only two of them averages more points (Markkanen by less than a point, and Evan Fournier by less than a point). Only Markkanen averages more rebounds, by two. Jonathan Isaac has not played this season whatsoever.

Derrick White plays better defense and is a playmaker than almost anyone around his contract value. The only other contract that is comparable to his, is OG Anunoby, which is not a dig at all. Anunoby is an NBA champion, and an All-Star, playing in the Rising Stars Challenge for the World team representing the United Kingdom. At 24 years old, he is the only player, along with Kawhi Leonard, to have multiple 30 point, 5 rebound, and 5 steal games in Toronto Raptor franchise history.

Derrick White pictured here on a picture of the 2019 Olympic FIBA Championship Basketball team

White has done nothing but contribute to the Boston Celtics. He has a plus-minus of +80 for the team this season. In the same interview of the previous quote, Ime Udoka also said “I know him well and where he's been brought up, we have a lot of similarities in our background. He should fit in seamlessly.” They also all had a chance to share some camaraderie, before being on the same team, when they all went to the Olympics together, “Jaylen (Brown) and Jayson (Tatum), Marcus (Smart), were all with him at Team USA, so they have a common bond there as well."

A bond only gets stronger with time, which bodes well for the future of the young Boston Celtics.

Was the Derrick White Trade Worth It?


Derrick White high-fiving his Boston Celtics teammate Payton Pritchard while in the middle of a game
(Winslow Tomson/USA Today Sports)

Right after the trade involving White, the Boston Celtics went on a 9-game win streak. Since then, the team has enjoyed being the number one defense in the league, and the number 4 offense in the league. It has multiple All-Defense players, and an MVP candidate. The front office was confident in the big move at the deadline. Some fans were excited, having knowledge and previous insight into the player Derrick White was.

Some, however, believed too much was given up for one player. Indeed, Josh Richardson is an elite three-point shooter (40% this season), and Romeo Langford has potential, being only 22 years old, 6’6, and with a large wingspan. Two first round picks, one for 2022, and one pick-swap for 2028, are a controversial aspect of the trade.

A close-up of Derrick White preparing to shoot a free throw while in the middle of a game
(Winslow Tomson\USA Sports Today)

Yet, currently, those complaints truly have no place. Boston is in a unique position where they can realistically gear up for multiple championship runs. The team used to have a stack of team building draft picks. They are now exchanging the picks to turn on the win-now mode. When you have All-NBA players in Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Robert Williams, you simply cannot waste that talent for an uncertain future. The team that suits up every night is the team that could bring that 18th banner, and that must be recognizable.

Sometimes, you must make moves that have inherent risk to obtain a reward. In this case, the move worked out. Furthermore, both teams benefitted from the trade. It was a win for the Spurs, who received a lethal outside shooter, a raw talent to develop and two first round picks. After, all, if any team was the best at development, it would be the Spurs.

As of right now, the Celtics stand on top of the Eastern Conference. Accordingly, as of right now, the Derrick White trade has been a success.

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