The majority of the NBA’s rising stars model their game around a player they admire and respect. To be the best, you have to learn from the best. Jayson Tatum idolized the late Kobe Bryant, striving to be the fluid and versatile scorer who dominated the league for 20 seasons. You can see it in Tatum’s game. The footwork, the fadeaways, and the mentality–it’s emulated from Bryant. Other prospects may look at stars such as Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, or Luka Doncic to fuel their offseason workouts and overall drive to improve. For Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell, there’s a particular Boston Celtic he admires above the rest. It’s not Tatum, Jaylen Brown, or Jrue Holiday. Russell wants to be like Derrick White.
“My inspiration has been Derrick White,” said Russell on October 15 following a preseason loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. “I want to be Derrick White. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does. He makes all the winning plays, and it’s who I want to be.”
It’s not every day someone in the NBA publicly points to White as a player they want to be like. White is generally recognized as a serviceable, consistent PG who can complement a team’s core on both the defensive and offensive end of the floor. He’s not going to drop 30 points on any given night, he’s not going to dunk on your favorite player, and he’s probably not going to end up on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 too often.
But maybe Russell is onto something, and maybe White deserves a little more respect to his name.
Derrick White not properly recognized ahead of 2023-24 season
In a recent CBS Sports’ top 100 rankings, White’s name is nowhere to be found–yet that doesn’t matter to Russell. White is coming off a season with Boston in which he averaged 12.4 PPG on 46% shooting on a team where the offense is centered around the All-NBA Tatum and Brown. While those numbers are far from staggering, White is a player every successful NBA team needs on their roster.
When White’s name was called upon amidst Boston’s postseason run last spring, he answered the bell. He averaged 13.4 PPG in 20 playoff contests while shooting the ball at over a 50% clip. And we all know what he did against Miami to keep Boston alive in the Eastern Conference Finals.
If it wasn’t for White, the Celtics wouldn’t be in the position they are in today in their pursuit for Banner 18, and Russell has realized that. He’s reliable, accountable, and everything in between. On a Lakers team that is trying to get over the hump, he’s exactly the type of archetype they need: an experienced player that will lead your team to the finish line when it matters the most.