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Getting To Know D.J. White: What Can He Bring The Celtics?

The ongoing quest to adequately fill out the Celtics’ roster still has another week or two to go, but is taking a step in the right direction today in the form of D.J. White. The 6-9 power forward will be signing a 10-day contract with the Celtics once he receives his clearance paperwork from the CBA. That could happen soon or take a little longer, like it did with Terrence Williams.

The former Bobcat has been out of the NBA this year, posting 21.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game for the Shanghai Sharks in the CBA. Those kind of numbers look imposing, but as we all know, the NBA and Chinese Basketball Association are two very different animals. So what exactly can we expect from White back in the states? And will he be able to contribute to the C’s in the rotation right away? Let’s investigate what White brings to the table.


Finishing at the rim
This has not been a strength for the majority of the Celtics team this season, thanks to a vast collection of undersized bigs (and Jason Collins). White will be a breath of fresh air in this area.

He’s an above-average finisher at the basket, hitting 74 percent of his attempts around the rim during his career. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get there too much on his own, averaging just a couple attempts per game. However, if the C’s can get him the ball down there with good ball movement and cuts from White, there’s a good chance he’ll finish the job.

Reliable mid-range shooter
This is the bread and butter of White’s game, as he’s a steady midrange shooter from anywhere outside 10 feet to the 3-point arc. The 26-year-old hit about 43% of his jumpers from this range last season for Charlotte, taking roughly four attempts per game.

Those percentages make him as reliable as Brandon Bass from the midrange and that’s a useful skill for a guy like White who thrives in the pick and pop. Unlike Chris Wilcox, he will help Boston keep the floor spread offensively with the second unit. White also postups well from the mid-range and will take the option of pulling up for jumpers if his defender gives him room or driving to the hoop if a player crowds him too much in guarding against his jumper. Leading to plays like this

Low turnover rate
Although most people don’t write about it, the ability to not turn the ball over is a skill in the NBA, especially for big men. In trading away Jason Collins last week, the most turnover prone big man in the NBA (30% turnover rate!), the C’s will be bringing in the exact opposite with White.

White has a career turnover rate of just 8 percent on his possessions, which is a fantastic mark for anyone in the NBA and would give him the second lowest rate on the C’s this year. Fewer turnovers mean more shot attempts for Boston’s offense and that’s a good thing for a team that struggles with offensive rebounds and getting to the line.

Average defensive rebounder for his size
It’s sad that I have to put this in the “good” category, but given the state of rebounding amongst Boston’s bigs, it’s necessary. White has an 18.2% defensive rebounding rate in his career, which pegs him as an average rebounder in the NBA as a power forward. Given that those numbers are better than anyone on the C’s besides KG or Paul Pierce, Doc Rivers will gladly take it.


Most of his defense?
I could narrow this down to a few different things but feel like it’s better to take a bigger picture view of White in this respect.

First things first: his synergy numbers were awful on the defensive end with the Bobcats. He allowed 0.91 points per possession, ranking him an ugly 342nd in the NBA. That’s not a way to get into Doc Rivers’ rotation right away. However, a closer investigation shows he may not be as inept as he looks.

White was adequate at defending in isolation and postups, putting up an overall ranking in the hundreds out of all NBA players, and surprisingly, he actually had strong numbers in pick-and-roll defense, allowing only 0.75 points per possession in that department.

The area in which he struggled the most was defending spot-ups, especially from beyond the arc, as White does not have good close out speed, especially against stretch four’s. He gets sucked into the play a lot and lacks the speed/awareness to make up for it and close out.

With all of this noted, let’s take a less harsh view of White’s defense last year, considering he played for one of the worst teams in NBA history. D.J.’s defense wasn’t great but his teammates put him in a lot of bad spots in those situations. If you go back a year or two to his time with the Thunder, his defensive numbers are a bit better. Not great by any means, but more run of the mill for power forward. Danny Ainge is hoping he grades out the same way here with a team that plays sound defense.

Below average offensive rebounder
Looking for someone to give Boston a Jared Sullinger-like spark on the offensive glass? Don’t look to White. He’ll finish baskets when he grabs offensive rebounds, but he only does so on 6.5 percent of his opportunities, which puts him below guys like Bass and Wilcox. Look at the bright side though…he’ll fit right in! He did show some flashes in limited playing time early in his career with the Thunder in hitting the glass well though, so keep an eye on this.

Not a shot blocker/interior presence
The Celtics didn’t have a shot blocker before they signed him and that remains the case now. He swats them away as much as Bass does, which isn’t that much at all. See here.

Too jumper happy?
You are going to see a lot of mid-range jumpers from this signing, which is also known as the most inefficient shot in basketball. The C’s take too many as a team already and White will just add to that problem if he can’t make them at a solid clip.

The Verdict
Assuming White can find a way to hold his own on the defensive end, the C’s may have found a little steal here. Best case scenario for him is he becomes a better version of Brandon Bass the rest of the way. Worst case scenario? He bricks a lot of jumpers and looks more lost on defense than Wilcox and Bass, leading to Doc sending him packing after ten days.

The important thing is that there is offensive upside here and the C’s still need that in a major way. With improved teammates in a spread offense, White should get a lot of open looks on the perimeter. If he can finish them in accordance with his career averages, he’ll make Ainge look good with another signing.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com/stats, Hoopdata.com, and Basketball-Reference.com

  • Portceltic

    I like the fact that Danny is using 10-day contracts with the hopes of a buy out materializing. I think T.Will and White would likely be given a second 10-day contract. Mos def White is an upgrade over Collins. An NBA caliber player who surprisingly didn't land a roster spot somewhere this season. Bass has more athleticism but could see his floor time compromised if Doc can give White some meaningful minutes to showcase his stroke.

  • Morpheus

    So, Olbrecht, signs in Houston.

  • Rav

    If White is only an average defender, how can he be expected to acquaint himself with the Celtics' complex defensive schemes (enough to prove himself over Bass/Wilcox) in the short span of 10 days?

    • The Cardinal

      He's not being signed to prove himself over Bass or Wilcox, he's being signed to add some front line depth behind them. The fact that he has prior NBA experience is a plus, and we can all hope that he turns out to be a legitimate rotation player but right now, all Doc and Danny are looking for is a body that can eat up the amount of time that Collins spent on the floor without being totally lost.

  • Frank A

    Is he signed yet?