What a relief for the San Antonio Spurs, who have struggled greatly without their best perimeter defender available over their last five games. Derrick White has taken strides as a playmaker and defender this season, sliding into Dejounte Murray’s role with relative ease while expanding his game and learning to compete at the highest level.
For as valuable as White has been on offense this season, its White’s spectacular on-ball defense that the team has missed the most. Standing at 6-foot-5, White uses his size and length to cut off lanes to the basket while extending himself to contest jump shot on the perimeter.
He adds a level of defensive versatility that the Spurs are in dire need of. The product of the Colorado Buffaloes is able to defend 1-through-3 depending on the height of the small forward in question. For Friday’s game in Toronto, it’s possible that White will match up against his former teammate Kawhi Leonard at times.
Still, head coach Gregg Popovich will certainly look to use White’s size advantage in the point guard matchup with Kyle Lowry.
While standing in for White, combo guard Bryn Forbes struggled to keep up with the competition. Matching up against the likes of De’Aaron Fox, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley and Ricky Rubio is no easy task- especially for a player that’s known for defensive issues. San Antonio dropped 4-of-5 games during that stretch on the first stretch of their annual Rodeo Road Trip.
This season’s Rodeo Road Trip leads into an East Coast swing coming out of the All-Star Break with visits to Toronto and both New York teams. Lowry and Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell should provide interesting tests for White in different ways. Russell uses his size and precision to create shots for others while Lowry takes a more crafty and methodical approach to the game.