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What We Learned About Derrick White at the FIBA World Cup

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Derrick White was hot and cold for Team USA, what does that mean for the upcoming season?

2019 FIBA World Cup: Classification 7-8: USA v Poland Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2019 FIBA World Cup concluded with a disappointing seventh-place finish for Team USA and Derrick White a little over a week ago, and NBA Training Camp officially opens September 30 for the San Antonio Spurs.

White wasn’t exactly the star of the show for a talented United States roster that sported household names like Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell. He played the third-fewest minutes per game but made solid contributions off the bench when head coach Gregg Popovich called his number.

Although the former Colorado Buff spent the first seven games of the tournament manning the second unit, White rounded out the starting lineup for the Americans in their final matchup of the World Cup. There he provided a spark on both ends that helped propel the United States to victory over Poland and gave fans a glimpse of his ability to play alongside another ball-dominant guard.

White only spent 124 minutes on the floor representing his country, so the sample size of his performance is relatively small. With that being said, there’s still plenty to take away from the eight games he played in China.

Takeaways

Three-Point Shooting:

White is a man of many talents on the basketball court, but three-point shooting isn’t one of them, at least not yet.

Despite shooting a respectable 33.8% from beyond the arc last season, he seems to have stagnated in that department. He shot a paltry 16.7% on his long-distance attempts and took just 12 shots from the FIBA three-point range.

While I expect him to hover around 30% from three-point territory next season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he struggled to improve upon his percentage from a year ago. He knocked down a pair of threes, but too often he looked uncomfortable to let if fly from the outside.

Corner threes are the shortest by distance and should therefore be the easiest to make. White drained 44% of his three-point tries from the right corner in 2018-2019, and San Antonio should make it a point to find him more of those opportunities.

Off-Ball Movement:

We saw how dangerous White could be with the ball in his hands in Game 3 of the First Round of the 2019 Playoffs, but he’s equally threatening without the rock, too.

DeMar DeRozan was responsible for most of the ball-handling duties last season, and the return of Dejounte Murray will make touches harder to come by. Thankfully, White’s basketball IQ is through the roof, and he understands how to maneuver around the court.

That talent was on full display when he suited up for Team USA earlier this month. He made several beautiful cuts to the rim and found himself open for high-percentage shots.

He will still run the offense from time to time, though his proficiency with or without the ball makes him a threat to score in almost any situation.

Facilitating:

The Colorado native knows how to create looks for himself, and he’s excellent at producing scoring chances for his teammates.

Despite playing the fewest minutes of all guards on the United States roster, White finished third on the team in total assists. He consistently identified the smart play and kicked it out to the open man.

It’s easy to forget Team USA had limited time to build chemistry together. As good as he was running the offense overseas, White should be even better in year three in the Spurs system.

His ability to see the floor and make the correct pass should come in handy if Coach Pop decides to tread White out with the second unit. Patty Mills and Bryn Forbes are better suited to roam around the perimeter while Derrick assumes floor general responsibilities anyway.

Defense:

I was pretty much prepared to deem White one of the premier defenders in the league after he spent much of last season locking down the best guards and wings the NBA has to offer. Now, I’m ready to say he might be the best stopper in San Antonio.

Yes, I realize Murray was the youngest All-NBA Defender in league history before he tore his ACL during the 2018 preseason. And yes, I’m well aware White hasn’t been selected to an All-Defensive team in either of his first two seasons.

Although he didn’t register a single block at the World Cup, he teased a newfound capacity to play the passing lanes at a higher level than we’ve previously seen. I fully anticipate him to swat shots at his position again, but be on the lookout for an uptick in steals per game.

If that happens, he might have a chance to join Murray on an All-Defensive Team. It may seem far fetched for one organization to have two players at the same position make an All-Defensive Team in the same season, but I like their odds.

Great defenders tend to make life easier for one another, and that generates more defensive opportunities. Don’t believe me? Paul George enjoyed a career-high in steals per game while Russell Westbrook achieved a career-high in blocks per game last season, and both finished top five in total deflections.

Murray is a much better defender than Westbrook, so imagine what he can do for White and vice versa.

Confidence:

As is the case with most young players, the talent is there, but the confidence to perform doesn’t always follow. White looked great in spurts during the World Cup, but he also looked unsure of himself in moments that seemed rather open and close.

He rarely demanded the ball and hesitated to pull the trigger when behind the three-point line. While I understand passing on awkward shots and deferring to better players, indecision leads to turnovers, broken plays, and wasted possessions.

We know the kind of damage White can do when he shows confidence in his abilities. Unfortunately, we know how much it hurts the Spurs when he falls silent.

White has all the skills to be special. Now it’s time for him to bring some confidence to the hardwood and capitalize on those talents.