This is always something to celebrate, no matter how small: Derrick White was detailed by Zach Lowe in his weekly column on ESPN. You can read that here, where White’s appreciation comes in at #8 of the 10 items in the article.
Quin Snyder once described a smooth, anticipatory player to me as having “a good nervous system.” I always liked that. (Please ignore that the player was Trey Lyles.)
White has a good nervous system. He is always on his toes on defense, sliding and bouncing, but never out of balance. He moves his feet in almost exact concert with ball handlers, like a mirror image of them.
He can start, stop, and change direction on a dime. He tracks everything at once, so he rotates on time -- with the flight of the ball.
[video only accessible on ESPN platforms]
Dallas loves that “Spain” action, with Dwight Powell screening for Luka Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr. lurking in the paint to slam Powell’s guy -- LaMarcus Aldridge -- before veering out for an open 3-pointer. A lot of teams coach their two guards -- the guys on Doncic and Hardaway -- to switch.
You almost never see any pair pull it off with the timing and synchronization White and Bryn Forbes show here.
It’s tempting to say White plays at his own pace, but we usually attach that phrasing to slower guys. White is explosive in tight spaces. He’s good slow and fast. He plays at whatever pace serves him.
It looks like the Mavs have switched when White scoots around this crunchtime pick from Aldridge. White isn’t sure. He keeps going, scanning the floor and stutter-stepping side-by-side with Aldridge -- until Powell panics and sinks back inside, revealing the open jumper White suspected might materialize. That is old-man savvy.
White makes simple, correct plays. He passes when he should pass, and launches 3s with confidence when defenses concede them. He often defends the best opposing wing scorer. He has a chance to be really good.
Cerebral players like White will always be appreciated by basketball nerds like Lowe, but as he points out, the Colorado alum is more athletic than most players who rely almost solely on skill and guile. Lowe has written about White earlier in the season as a heady player who reads the opposition well.
With White’s intelligence, athleticism and length, he’s going to be one of the best defensive guards in the NBA for a while. He’s skilled too, and as we know from having seen him up close, he is always improving and adding new things to his game. Spencer Dinwiddie might want to watch out because White could soon overtake him as the best Buffalo in the NBA.