San Antonio Spurs: 5 goals for Derrick White’s rookie season

Jan 28, 2017; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) reacts after a play in the second half against the Oregon Ducks at Coors Events Center. The Buffaloes defeated the Ducks 74-65. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Every rookie has a list of goals they want to set out to accomplish in year one. Here are five goals for San Antonio Spurs rookie Derrick White to reach.

The San Antonio Spurs selected Derrick White with the 29th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Despite being such a late pick, White has a lot of positive qualities he’ll bring to the table on day one. He is a good shooter, can run the pick-and-roll, and has good size for a guard. Still, there are always things one can work on.

White may have tangible goals for himself for his first year in the league — things he can measure when the end of the season comes around. Did he average the number of points and assists he wanted? Did he shoot the three point percentage he aimed for? Was he on an All-Rookie team?

Those are things we will have to wait on, and those goals are for him and his team to decide.

Instead in this article, we’ll look at some of the qualities and skills White can improve on as a rook. As he makes strides in these areas of his game, he could become a key role player for a great team, and perhaps a quality starter in time.

Feb 26, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with guard Tony Parker (9) in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

5. Learn

This one seems a little obvious and vague, but it’s the most important thing White can do. He is going to arguably one of the most well-run, and well-coached organizations in the league in the San Antonio Spurs — so much so that long-time NBA veterans have taken pay cuts just to be a part of the culture.

As a young rookie, White should appreciate being a part of that so early in his career, and take advantage of it.

Not only should he learn about what it’s like being on a great team, but there’s a lot he can learn about the game. With Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, there’s a lot of basketball to learn in San Antonio.

Whether Manu Ginobili retires or not, you have to think there’s a chance he’s around to help the rookie, much like Tim Duncan has done this past year. With all these greats close by, White should learn more in his first NBA season than all his previous years combined.

Feb 18, 2017; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks forward Dillon Brooks (24) defends against Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) in the second half at Matthew Knight Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

4. Get stronger

At the NBA Draft Combine, White tipped the scales at 190 pounds. While he has good size, he can still stand to add some weight and get stronger in order to go against bigger players. Right now, with just average length and athleticism, he does not project to defend multiple positions. But if he were to get stronger, he could put himself in position to defend players who may have more length.

Added strength would also help him offensively, as his lack of elite speed sometime prevents him from getting the shots he wants. More body strength would allow him to either post up, or bully his way to the rim and free throw line.

Normally we see young NBA players get stronger just from getting on a professional training program, so White is bound to get his body in better shape as the year goes on. But if he wants to really make an impact at this level, he’ll have to put in a little extra work to make up for his “average” length and speed.

Feb 5, 2017; Berkeley, CA, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) drives in against California Golden Bears guard Grant Mullins (3) during the second half at Haas Pavilion. The California Golden Bears defeated the Colorado Buffaloes 77-66. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

3. Improve ball handling

While White is comfortable with the ball in his hands, he needs to improve his handle. In college he was able to use his size to get to the basket, so with the bigger and faster competition he will have to get more creative.

At Colorado when making a move, White would often attack a defender upright. Instead he should work on getting low and dipping his shoulder to add some speed to his drives. He also tends to go to the rim in a straight line, rather than making a move to get by the defender. This sometimes worked in college where he was a bigger guard, but at the next level that will be difficult. White should work on counter moves for when he gets inside the three-point arc to help him get to the rim.

If White wants to create at the next level, working on his handle and footwork will go a long way. Otherwise he will be more of a spot-up shooter who can rip through and go to the rim only on hard closeouts.

Jan 28, 2017; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) defends against Oregon Ducks guard Tyler Dorsey (5) in the first half at Coors Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

2. Work on defense

As I mentioned, White will have to do a lot of work to become a good NBA defender. His average wingspan and foot speed limit what he can do naturally, so his development will come exclusively from putting in the work. Luckily for him, there are plenty of things he can do to become a solid defender.

Again, he can improve his strength. While that doesn’t really help him on the perimeter in today’s game, it’ll make it harder for people to score on him in the post. Whether it is off of a post up or drive, good strength will make it harder for his opponents to finish. The added strength would also make him more versatile defensively.

Like we saw with James Harden in the playoffs, to hide his defensive deficiencies on the perimeter the Houston Rockets utilized his strength and low center of gravity to defend in the post.

Another thing White will need to do to work on his defense is improve his footwork. Learning when and how to move his feet will help make up for his lack of speed. If he can anticipate the ball handlers movements, and get to that spot efficiently, it’s almost just as good as beating him there with speed.

Lastly, White will need to watch film. A lot. If he really studies not only his opponents, but knows where he is supposed to be defensively in every situation, he will be set up for success.

May 22, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs players (from left to right) Pau Gasol (16) Patty Mills (8) and Manu Ginobili (20) watch on the bench during the second half in game four of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

1. Find his role

It is important as a Spur to know your job and execute it to perfection. While that can be very difficult to do, the coaching staff puts players in the position to succeed within their roles. So White needs to be sure to listen, understand what is needed of him, and go out and make those plays.

Right now we don’t know what White’s role will be due to all of the free agents on the roster. He could be anything from a secondary ball-handler, to spot minute defender, to occasional minutes with the starters as a floor spacer.

Whether his role is one of those three, all of them, or something completely different, White has to be sure he is doing his job every day. Because if he does, there will be a time in the playoffs that the team needs him to make a play.

If he wants to be a successful pro, and San Antonio Spur, he’s going to have to do just that.

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