In the Nuggets-Spurs first round series, is it more surprising Derrick White scored 36 points in Game 3, or that Derrick White has been better than All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge? And why is Derrick White making Jamal Murray look comatose? By the way, who is Derrick White?
A second year player out of Colorado, Derrick White is shooting 69% in three games and is the second leading Spurs scorer at 23 points per outing. It is 14 points more than he posted in the regular season when he didn’t average in double figures. In fact, White only scored 20+ points 5 times and never a 30 point game. But he has the highest offensive rating on the Spurs since the playoffs commenced, 129. The 6-5 24 year old is making Jamal Murray look like he has contracted one of those measles viruses that is going around. With the exception of one miracle 4th quarter, Murray looks shell shocked and like this is his first playoffs. He can’t guard White. He can’t score. He can get into his feelings and spout off at the mouth but so far, his mouth is writing a check his behind can’t cash.
Derrick White is one of those typical Spurs late first round picks. Selected at the end of the 2017 draft, the number 29 pick backed up Dejounte Murray last year when he wan’t in the G-league. But Murray’s season ending ACL injury opened the Derrick White door and now he is looking like the Spurs answer at point guard even though he isn’t the defender Murray is. But he can score, get to the rim, finish with flair, and overshadow the former Kentucky Wildcat, Jamal Murray.
This is the secret to pulling off an upset in the playoffs. You absolutely must have players that are producing at a higher level than in the regular season. DeMar DeRozan is playing a shade off the regular season but LaMarcus Aldridge is worse, shooting 39% and 19 ppg. The rest of the roster is doing the Spurs teamwork thing and it hasn’t really mattered. If White hadn’t decide to morph into the best point guard on the court, the Nuggets would have a lead and LaMarcus Aldridge would be accused of another disappearing act. But the Colorado native White is making a possible second round matchup against Chris Paul some kind of interesting.
White isn’t a three point shooter. He’s killing it in the midrange, at the rim, and on long twos. That was pretty much the case in the regular season but in the playoffs he’s playing six more minutes and is showing that with more minutes, more efficiency, responsibility, leadership and want to.
Coming into the draft two years ago, Draft Express said this:
Derrick White is emerging as one of the best stories of the 2017 NBA Draft class, going from being entirely off the NBA radar after transferring from Division II, to earning first team All Pac-12 honors, an invitation to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, and then a spot at the NBA combine. His strong play in every setting he’s participated in the last six months has helped him emerge as a candidate to be the first senior selected in the 2017 NBA Draft which would have been almost unfathomable a year ago considering his starting point.
Seniors are more mature, have had to overcome adversity, and in White’s case, he had a growth spurt from 6-0 to 6-5. He joined Markelle Fultz, Frank Mason and Dennis Smith as the only players from power conferences to average 18, 4 and 4.
Like D’Angelo Russell of the Nets, White isn’t speedy but the pace he plays with fits within the Popovich system and he knows the game and particularly the spots on the floor he can be effective. What is surprising to many is his iso plays to the rim. White is a good pick and roll point but isn’t one of those pg’s who just sees the floor and two plays ahead. More importantly, White has a good sense of himself in pressure situations and doesn’t panic. He has composure.
Jamal Murray can be hotheaded, emotional and right now he is pressing. He wants to win badly. He is playing faster than the game is letting him and that is what the playoffs are all about, plus Gregg Popovich can scheme Murray who can be streaky and can also be what he was in Game 3, 6 shots, 6 points. Murray is innately more talented than White but winning the playoffs isn’t about individual game as much as it is about rising to the meet the moment. Can you make the right plays? Can you lead your team?
Derrick White, yes. Jamal Murray, no. At least not yet.