Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) gestures during Game 4 of the NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat, Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)AP
For the past two seasons, there’s a case to be made that Derrick White has been the third most valuable member of the Celtics. Boston paid a heavy price to acquire the former Spurs guard at the trade deadline in 2022, giving up Josh Richardson, a future first round pick and a top-1 protected pick swap in 2028. White’s presence helped catapult Boston into an NBA Finals contender during the 2021-22 season and he was arguably the team’s second-best player during their playoff run to the 2023 East Finals last year.
Despite those accolades, White continues to fall under the radar when looked at by many national outlets and there is no better example of that than ESPN’s Top 100 player ranking which was released on Tuesday. ESPN’s “NBArank” panel is composed of nearly 150 reporters, editors, producers and analysts, who are asked to rank players based on their predicted contributions — quality and quantity — for the 2023-24 season only.
A number of current and former notable Celtics made the list with Grant Williams checking in at No. 97, Robert Williams at No. 89, Kristaps Porzingis at No. 62 and Marcus Smart at No. 59. One glaring omission on the list however was White, falling behind such guards such as Collin Sexton, Russell Westbrook, Buddy Hield, Anfernee Simons and Jordan Poole.
If you poll executives and scouts around the NBA, it would be hard to find anyone who would take any of those guards ahead of White. His value on both ends of the floor has helped enable the front office to move Marcus Smart in a trade for Kristaps Porzingis while publicly handing White a starting guard role before the Jrue Holiday trade.
White’s omission within the ESPN rankings was so glaring that one panel member Kevin Pelton has already panned it within his analysis of the first 50 players on the list.
“The single most glaring omission from the top 100, White had a case as the most important player on last season’s Celtics outside of stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum,” Pelton wrote. “With White on the court, Boston outscored opponents by 11 points per 100 possessions according to NBA Advanced Stats, which dropped to 1.3 without him. While White did benefit from weaker opponent shooting on 3s in his minutes, he also played a key role in that differential with his career-high 38% 3-point shooting and secondary playmaking on a team badly in need of it. There’s a better case for White as one of the NBA’s top 50 players than outside the top 100.”