At the 2022 Trade Deadline, the Boston Celtics made a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to acquire Derrick White. This was one of a few trades the Boston Celtics made at the deadline. However, it’s proven to be by far the most important one.
White had been a member of the Spurs since 2017 when the team drafted him with the 29th pick in the NBA Draft.
Up to the point of the trade, White averaged 11.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 3.9 APG in his career. Additionally, White was a career 44.5 FG% shooter, including 34.4% from the three-point line.
White was also an impressive defender. Because of this, it was easy to see why GM Brad Stevens thought the guard would be a good fit for the team. This was especially true when thinking about pairing White with another defensive specialist in Marcus Smart.
Fast forward a year and a half later, and White is now a key piece to the Celtics’ core. With the team having traded Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies during the offseason, it’s expected that White will assume the largest role of his career yet for the 2023-24 season.
Interestingly, the trade was seen as an overpay when it happened.
So this begs the question–what did the Spurs get in the deal for White, and how have they panned out since the trade? And despite White being successful in Boston, did the Celtics overpay for him in one of their biggest trades of the year?
With the new season kicking off in less than a month, it’s as good a time as any to analyze the deal a little bit more.
Boston Celtics Trade Throwback #6: Derrick White to Beantown
Full Trade Details
Boston Celtics receive: Derrick White
Why The Celtics Made The Trade to Acquire Derrick White
At the time of the trade, the Celtics were sitting at 31-25 as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics had been 14-6 since the beginning of the calendar year and were on a six-game winning streak. This was after an underwhelming start to the season, when they were 15-15 through 30 games.
It looked like the tides were turning and the energy began shifting in Boston.
This was Stevens’ first season as the team’s GM after replacing former GM Danny Ainge. Because of this, it’s likely that Stevens was looking to build a team that he saw fit to the strengths of the Celtics’ core and new coaching.
Trading Richardson away was controversial since he had a solid year in Boston up to this point. However, there was a bigger need for another two-way guard as opposed to a backup wing.
As for Langford, the Celtics’ 2019 first-round pick, he wasn’t very impressive in the limited minutes he played with the team. It’s evident that Stevens saw him as expendable despite the Indiana native only being a few seasons into his NBA career at the time.
Why Did the Spurs Trade Derrick White to the Celtics?
The Spurs had too many guards at this point.
At the time, Murray was the only one making more than White’s $15.1 million salary. This was after White signed a 4-year, $70 million extension in December 2020.
Murray was seen as better than White at the time as he was selected to his first All-Star team during the 2021-22 season. Plus, White’s scoring and three-point shooting had regressed. All of this together made White the odd man out.
In addition to clearing up cap space and a logjam in the backcourt, the Spurs got a veteran wing in Richardson, a young project in Langford, and a first-round pick.
Aftermath of the Trade
The Celtics’ win streak during the trade for White reached nine in a row before losing to the Detroit Pistons 112-11 on February 16, 2022.
Boston went on an impressive run and ended the season with a 51-31 record, tied for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference with the Milwaukee Bucks.
As the No. 2 seed, the Celtics would sweep the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. Eventually, the team defeated the Bucks and Miami Heat in seven games for each respective series to make their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.
Despite going up 2-1, the Celtics lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
The following offseason, the team dismissed Ime Udoka as head coach for violating team policies.
Boston would go on to promote assistant Joe Mazzulla to the head coaching role, a position he still holds heading into the 2023-24 season.
White played in 26 games with the Celtics after the trade with the Spurs and started four of them.
In these games, White averaged 11 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 3.5 APG. White also shot 40.9% from the field and 30.6% from the three-point line.
The story of White’s first season in Boston was his impressive performance in the postseason.
Most notably was White’s showcase against the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Coming off the bench, White scored 21 points and shot an amazing five-for-eight from the three-point line. White also recorded three assists and a rebound.
In the 2022-23 season, White assumed a much larger role and started 70 games while playing in all 82.
White averaged 12.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 3.9 APG. His shooting also improved as he shot 46.2 FG% and 38.1 3pt%.
In 2023, White was selected to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. This was the first award of his NBA career.
The former Spurs guard’s best game of the season came on February 10. 2023 against the Charlotte Hornets.
In a 127-116 win, White recorded a 33-point, 10-assist double-double while shooting 63.2% from the field and 57.1% from beyond the arc. White also recorded three rebounds, three blocks, and a steal in the win.
During the postseason, White started 16 of the 20 games he played.
In these games, White averaged 13.4 PPG, 3 RPG, and 2.1 APG. White also shot an impressive 50.5 FG% and 45.5 3pt%.
White’s most notable moment with the Celtics so far is his game-winner against the Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Heading into the 2023-24 season, White is expected to assume a much larger role with Smart no longer a member of the Celtics.
San Antonio Spurs
After this trade with the Celtics, the Spurs ended the 2011-22 season with a 34-48 record. This was the third straight year the team missed the playoffs after over two decades of consecutive appearances in the postseason.
In the offseason, the Spurs traded Murray, the league leader in steals that season, to the Atlanta Hawks for Danilo Gallinari. The team waived Gallinari shortly after the trade.
The 2022-23 saw the Spurs finish with a 22-60 record, the worst record in the Western Conference.
San Antonio won the draft lottery and selected Victor Wembanyama with the first pick of the 2023 NBA Draft.
Although the Spurs dynasty has been over for some time, it appears that there will be brighter days in the franchise’s future.
Richardson played 21 games for the Spurs in 2021-22 and started seven of them.
In these games, Richardson averaged 11.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, and 2.3 APG. Richardson also shot 44.4% from beyond the arc on four attempts per game.
Richardson ended the 2021-22 season shooting 41.3 3pt%, 10th-highest in the league that year.
For the 2022-23 season, Richardson played in 42 games and started six with the Spurs. In these games, Richardson averaged 11.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, and 3.3 APG.
On February 9, 2023, the Spurs traded Richardson to the New Orleans Pelicans. This was almost exactly one year after the Spurs acquired Richardson from the Celtics.
Richardson finished the season in New Orleans and only started four games.
This offseason, Richardson signed a two-year minimum contract to return to the Heat, the team he started his NBA career with.
Langford only played in four games for the Spurs during the 2021-22 season.
Averaging 10.8 MPG in the four games, Langford averaged 2.8 PPG and 1 RPG on 57.1 FG%.
Langford saw the court a lot more in the 2022-23 season, playing in 43 games for the Spurs and starting 21.
The former Celtics guard averaged 6.9 PPG, 2.7 RG, and 1.2 APG on 46.7 FG%.
Langford’s best game of the season came in a 122-115 win against the New York Knicks on December 19, 2022, where he dropped 23 points on 68.8 FG%. Additionally, Langford recorded three rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
On August 30, 2023, Langford signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Utah Jazz.
Did the Celtics Make the Right Decision to Trade for Derrick White?
To put it simply–yes.
At the end of the day, the Celtics clearly got the better end of the trade with the Spurs.
However, White did not fit San Antonio’s timeline in 2022. Because of this, trading him made sense even though he was a good scheme fit with the Spurs.
Many fans and analysts considered this trade an overpay when it happened. However, it almost looks like a heist a year and a half later.
In fact, this may go down as one of the best trades the Boston Celtics have made in recent history.
The Celtics got a great guard who fits the team extremely well for two players who weren’t in their long-term plans.
White is still only 29 years old and could realistically be the starting point guard next to the Jays for years to come.
Only time will tell if White can help the Celtics bring another banner to TD Garden.