Why Derrick White should be a lock for NBA All-Defensive First Team

What Boston Celtics guard Derrick White has been doing on the defensive end of the floor this season has often gone underappreciated (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
What Boston Celtics guard Derrick White has been doing on the defensive end of the floor this season has often gone underappreciated (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

What Boston Celtics guard Derrick White has been doing on the defensive end of the floor this season has often gone underappreciated.

It is difficult to ignore how essential Derrick White is to this season’s Boston Celtics. Whether it is in the starting lineup or off the bench, White has always found a way to be influential on both ends of the floor. Getting White to Boston before the last year’s NBA trade deadline was arguably the best move Brad Stevens has made since moving from the sidelines to the front office. For just Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford and a top-four-protected 2022 first-round pick, Stevens locked up a player that has Celtic pride written all over him.

While the former Colorado guard has taken a step forward in almost every statistical category from last season including his three-point shot, his defense is what makes him an vital asset. At least one Celtic has made it on the All-Defensive first team in three out of the last four campaigns. Given the season Boston’s No. 9 has had on the defensive side of the ball, it very well could be his turn. White leads all guards in total two-point shot contested with 336, more than both All-Stars Lauri Markkanen, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

His perimeter defense is simply relentless. Even when an opponent thinks they have a step on White, he uses his length to recover and alter the opposition’s shot in some way. Whether it was his block on Kyrie Irving in the paint at the Barclays Center, or the swap on Michael Porter Jr’s 3-point attempt in Boston in early November, White has sensational awareness against players of all sizes, and in every position.

The Parker, Colorado native has held his ground against Luka Doncic, and Anthony Davis among others, demonstrating the vast amount of versatility that will benefit Boston throughout a potentially deep postseason run. He reads what the opponent has in mind before it even happens, using the law of verticality extremely well.

These are the kinds of plays that make Derrick White one of the best defensive guards in the NBA:

This is not something the former Colorado guard has begun this season. White led all guards in contested shots in the 2021-22 with 502, far ahead of both Buddy Hield, and RJ Barrett in second and third place respectively. Currently, White has 138 more two-point field goal contests this season than Marcus Smart was able to muster during his Defensive Player of the Year campaign. What more does White have to do to earn a place on the All-Defensive First team squad? On top of his persistence against anyone he takes on in the halfcourt, White is in the top-11 in total charges taken by guards throughout the regular season.

He leads all of the C’s rotational players in defensive rating, doing the little things consistently to prevent the opposition breaking down the defense as a whole. Never does it seem White gives up on a play. He has accumulated 49 games in which he has at least one block including 22 contests of two or more. White is not a forward, but the six-foot-four guard has discovered ways to become an underappreciated rim protector.

Derrick White has one of the critical pieces to the success of Celtics’ halfcourt defense

White is one of two guards who has played in two or more games along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who has totaled 61 or more rejections. With a net rating over +10.9, White leads all guards across the association who contributed in more than 26 games throughout this season. Boston only has a higher +/- with Jayson Tatum on the floor than White.

As one of the key contributors to the NBA’s current second-best defense, it is difficult to ignore the kind of defensive season White has been able to accumulate. For now two straight seasons, White has collected 500 or more shot contests. Now in a much larger market, Boston’s No. 9 should finally receive the reward he thoroughly deserves.

He was sensational during the second half of the 2021-22 season, but White has put everything together in his first full campaign in green. The former No. 29 overall selection does the kind of work the late Tom Heinsohn would appreciate. White’s defensive statistics match up to the eye test. For voters, this should be a no-brainer decision.

He is not the flashiest player in the league, but White has without question been one of the most tenacious, and unforgiving defenders from October to April.