The Celtics Are a Legitimate Threat to Win the Eastern Conference After the Derrick White Acquisition

Mere months ago, the talk surrounding the Boston Celtics seemed to revolve around the feasibility of going forward with both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Now, the Celtics are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, having gone 14-4 since Jan. 10. The acquisition of Derrick White significantly strengthens their chances of winning the Eastern Conference.

White isn’t the most glamourous player to change teams at the NBA trade deadline, nor does he address the Celtics’ need for outside shooting. However, he’s a viable shot-creator and slasher who can help Boston generate more offense. Perhaps more notably, her fortifies the team’s perimeter defense as part of a dogged backcourt alongside Marcus Smart.

Make no mistake, the Celtics are building momentum. The White trade could ultimately be the move that solidifies Boston’s contender status.

The Celtics acquired Derrick White at the NBA trade deadline

For weeks, the Boston Celtics looked like one of the teams holding the keys to the NBA trade deadline, given the number of veteran players they could have tried to move. Instead, Boston repositioned.

The Celtics swung a deal to acquire combo guard Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs. Boston sent Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, a 2022 protected first-round pick, and a pick swap in 2028 to bring White to Beantown. It’s an intriguing move on multiple levels.

Richardson always seemed like a trade candidate as the Celtics tried to carve out minutes for Aaron Nesmith. However, he had also been one of Boston’s best three-point shooters. Dealing him for a below-average three-point shooter in White (31.3% from deep this season) alters the complexion of the roster.

However, White gives the Celtics other things they need. He provides pretty consistent rim pressure as a slasher and can move well off the ball, which is vital considering Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown typically dictate the offense. Additionally, White’s on-ball defense makes him a better option at the guard spots than Dennis Schroder (since traded to the Houston Rockets) and Payton Pritchard.

Indeed, White wasted little time proving his value to Celtics fans in his first two games with his new team.

White thrives in Boston’s closing lineups

Derrick White’s stat lines in his first two games with the Celtics are a mixed bag.

White scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting in a win over the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 11 before shooting just 4-of-14 from the field in a Feb. 13 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. But shooting efficiency hardly defines White’s impact on the game.

The 27-year-old had six rebounds against the Nuggets. White added four boards against the Hawks while dishing out five assists against a single turnover. He also notched a pair of steals and a block and finished the contest +12 in terms of plus-minus.

The advanced numbers further illustrate White’s fit with this Celtics team.

Boston has an absurd +42.7 net rating in 15 minutes with a closing lineup of Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Robert Williams. The Celtics create offensive opportunities and lock opponents down on the other end. They held a Hawks team ranked second in offensive rating to just 95 points.

On the surface, White’s acquisition served as one of the under-the-radar moves at the deadline. In reality, though, his addition makes the Celtics a bonafide contender in the East.

Can the Celtics mantain momentum?

Boston Celtics guard Derrick White prepares for an NBA game against the Atlanta Hawks in February 2022
Derrick White prepares for a game against the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 13, 2022 | Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

The Celtics currently boast the NBA’s longest winning streak at eight games. They are the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and just 4.5 games out of the No. 1 seed.

Boston has already made up a good amount of ground. Can they make up even more?

Smart has played his best basketball of the season since returning to the rotation on Jan. 23. He’s buying into becoming more of a true point guard who willingly facilitates for the likes of Brown and Tatum.

Speaking of the Celtics’ two stars, they continue to feed off one another. Tatum, in particular, has been a brilliant two-way force as of late, even if his shooting efficiency hasn’t quite matched the quality of play. More importantly, after a Feb. 8 win over the Brooklyn Nets, Brown indicated that the team is in no way satisfied.

Derrick White could be the Celtics’ X-factor. He gives Boston more variety with his ability to create off the bounce and make plays in the painted area. Despite his perimeter shooting struggles, he made close to 35% of his three-pointers last season with the Spurs.

White’s first two games inform his status as a winning player for this Celtics team. If he can make gains as an outside shooter, Boston will be a terrifying team come playoff time.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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