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The Boston Celtics’ little big man


Derrick White is an outstanding perimeter defender. Possessing quick feet and dexterity, he calmly navigates the screen and maintains himself in front of even the most cunning ballhandlers. White isn’t huge, but he’s long enough to contest everything except the biggest wing in the league, where he attacks from the bounce.

He’s just as impactful off the ball. White has near-perfect timing and is rarely out of place when providing help and running rotations. He has a knack for reaching out to the passing and driving lanes at just the right moment to disrupt action or force a turnover.

White excels in nearly every way teams expect to provide defensive value to their guards, but his influence is not limited to such areas. He contributes in a way that is limited to big men: shot blocking.

White’s 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes is the most of any guard who has played 500 minutes this year, surpassed only by Robert Williams III and Luke Cornette. celticsRotation regular by And they’re not all the swipe-down, semi-steal style swats that tend to dominate the block totals of many guards (admittedly some do).

White consistently challenges scorers as a weakside shot blocker in a way that is rare among his positional peers.He has impeccable timing and enough vertical pop to contend with opponents at the top of the leap.White’s block rate of 1.8% ranks him percentile compared to guards across the league, according to Grass cleaning.

According to, White’s shot completion rate from within one meter is 58.9%, which is 4.0% below expectations, according to This isn’t elite-level effectiveness, but it’s clearly positive and exceeds what you would normally expect from a 6’4″ guard.

White’s overall influence as a shot blocker is no match for the best bigs in the league. He simply doesn’t have the size to be a deterrent at the rim, and his responsibilities as a perimeter defender keep him occupied away from the basket, so he’s just as likely to be a player positioned near the hoop as he is. You can’t deny shots so often.

Being the best shot blocking guard in the league is a bit like being the fastest offensive lineman in the NFL. Interesting and useful, but ultimately incredibly unimportant. However, White’s shot blocking is layered over an impressive defensive résumé. He excels most importantly for a defender of his size. It offers.

Boston is competing at the highest level. Every detail matters. The extra defense White’s shot block provides gives the Celtics a slight advantage that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s incredibly difficult to accurately speculate on his personal impact, but Boston’s performance when he plays offers little reason to doubt that he’s a meaningful contributor.

Opponents have 2.5% worse shots at the rim when White is on the court (76th percentile), the time the Celtics surrendered was just 109.3 points per 100 possessions (90th percentile), 6.1 points less (90th percentile) by cleaning the glass than when White is sitting. The stinginess in Boston’s minutes really shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s highly unlikely that White would go wrong defensively, even given the uncommon responsibilities for a player of his size.

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