After starting 55 times last year out of his 67 appearances, Derrick White has started only 11 times this season. Meanwhile, to the dismay of much of the San Antonio Spurs fanbase, Bryn Forbes has been the starting shooting guard in 48 out of the 49 games the Spurs have played this season.
Something happened during Saturday’s furious comeback victory over the basement-dwelling Charlotte Hornets that should hopefully clue Gregg Popovich in on something. With 9:39 remaining in the third quarter, Derrick White came in sooner than normal to replace Forbes. The move helped kickstart a 25-8 run over a seven-minute span, which the Spurs used to ride to an easy victory.
Though the game against Charlotte was an extreme case, similar things have happened often this season when White hits the floor. When he replaces Forbes specifically, the team’s worst defender is being replaced with its best defender.
Two Ways Derrick White Shines Defensively
Derrick White does two underrated things extremely well defensively: draw charges and contest inside shots vertically without fouling. Regarding taking charges, White leads the Spurs in charges drawn (0.30 per game) and he’s 14th in the league overall. The next Spurs player on that list is Jakob Poeltl with 0.17 charges drawn per game.
Much like Danny Green used to provide, White has great defensive instincts on transition defense, as he showed on Saturday when Malik Monk was streaking down the floor.
Here, even with DeMar DeRozan’s help clogging the lane, White makes the correct guess and establishes himself right before Monk runs through him.
White also has the size and strength to contest shots inside and out and has been demonstrating picture-perfect verticality on inside-the-paint contests as of late.
In a close matchup with the defending champion Toronto Raptors earlier this year, White demonstrated that after what seemed to be a great setup pass from Kyle Lowry to Norman Powell.
Why Derrick White Should Start in Place of Bryn Forbes
Keeping a solid lineup on the floor at all times is important, so it’s understandable that head coach Gregg Popovich might want to bring guys like White and Lonnie Walker IV off the bench. But there comes a point where being a complete defensive liability is too much to overcome and, unfortunately, Bryn Forbes is just that.
It’s no coincidence that when a defensive-minded lineup that includes White, Dejounte Murray and Poeltl is on the court together, the Spurs play well. As a 37.8% shooter from three-point range and a more than capable slasher, it’s not as if White is a liability on offense either.
With each passing game, it’s becoming more and more confusing that Forbes is starting games opposite the likes of Paul George and other various All-Stars who are impossible for Forbes to defend. In Monday’s close loss to the Clippers, he demonstrated once again that he needs to be used sparingly for offensive firepower off the bench and that’s it.
White has more than earned a starting role, and if the Spurs are “obsessed with getting the 8th seed” as Jabari Young recently wrote, he needs to be there sooner than later.