Terrico White was good value at No. 36 – just not for the Detroit Pistons

I’m not attacking Terrico White.

If you have any deductive skills, by this point, you can probably guess the rest of this post won’t be so positive. But to clarify, I’m against the Pistons picking White, not White himself – and there’s a difference.

Look, I get it. White is ridiculously athletic – maybe the best athlete in this draft. It was the second round. The odds of finding a future contributor are low. Why not swing for the fences?

Because the Pistons give him too small a chance of succeeding.

Like I did with Greg Monroe earlier, let’s take an in-depth look at White.

Athleticism

This has to be the conversation starter with White. He was arguably the best athlete at the NBA Combine:

  • Lowest body fat
  • Highest max vertical
  • Fifth-fastest sprint
  • Sixth-highest no-step vertical

At minimum, those numbers mean White has tons of potential.

Rodney Stuckey/ Dwyane Wade comparisons

White likes to compare himself to Dwyane Wade. Many Pistons fans have been a touch more sensible, saying White’s skill-set resembles Rodney Stuckey’s. All three are tweener guards with the strength and speed to trouble the league’s smaller or average-sized guards.

The big difference: Wade and Stuckey actually do it.

The hallmark of Wade’s and Stuckey’s offensives games are getting to the free-throw line. Wade led all guards eligible for the scoring title in free-throw attempts per game last season, and Stuckey ranked ninth.

Both showed that skill in college, too.

Wade averaged 9.2 free-throw attempts per 40 minutes (pace adjusted), his final season at Marquette. Stuckey took 9.4 free throws per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) his last year at Eastern Washington.

White took only 4.1 free throws per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) last season – 12th among the 15 guards drafted this year.

There are few reasons why White comes up short:

  • He’s a suspect ball-handler, especially in the traffic of the paint.
  • His agility rating at the combine was only so-so (and DraftExpress said he has good lateral quickness, the aspect of the agility drill least relevant here) which might mean he’d struggle to get defenders off balance and draw fouls.
  • He often uses pull-ups and floaters when driving. (To be fair, White’s offensive strength is his mid-range game.)

So, despite similar body types, White doesn’t stack up to Wade and Stuckey.

Scoring

At Mississippi, White’s main objective seemed to be scoring.

He tied Avery Bradley for tops among drafted guards with .97 field-goal attempts per possession. White’s assists and turnovers per possession ranked last among that group.

But he didn’t do it effectively. Of the 15 guards drafted this year, White’s true shooting percentage ranked 13th.

His mid-range game gives him a chance with Detroit, but a lot of White’s offensive success at Mississippi came playing up-tempo. He won’t have those opportunities nearly as frequently with the Pistons.

Point guard

White has said he’s more comfortable playing point guard than shooting guard. Why someone who shoots first, passes last and doesn’t dribble all that well would say that is a little confounding.

Point guards are certainly more valuable than shooting guards, so maybe White’s agent – who hasn’t been shy about talking up his client in the media – told White to say that. I don’t know.

White was criticized for shooting too much last season, when he played shooting guard. He shot even more often (per 40 minutes, pace adjusted) the year prior as a point guard.

White averaged 1.8 assists per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) – last among among the 15 guards drafted this year.

His supporters will emphasize he turned the ball over just 1.6 times per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) – fewest among drafted guards.

But I think that’s just a sign White doesn’t look to pass. It’s difficult to turn the ball over when you shoot quickly.

Maybe White really is a good point guard, or maybe he’s not. But he didn’t show much one way or the other in college, and I think most players with sufficient point-guard skills tend to reveal them in the course of two seasons.

Defense

If I’m Joe Dumars, here’s what I tell White:

Concentrate on defense. That will your ticket to playing time this season. Work on your offense for down the road. But if you want to see minutes this year, it will be because we can count on you as a stopper in limited minutes.

The big question is how that would go over for someone who was so offensively focused at Mississippi.

His steals ranked 14th, and his blocks ranked 13th among guards drafted this year. Obviously, those don’t tell the entire story.

Mississippi allowed 0.5 fewer points per 40 minutes with White on the court compared to him on the bench. But that only ranks eighth among the 15 drafted guards.

Still, there’s a lot more to learn about White’s defense that stats don’t tell us. Summer league and the preseason should begin to reveal a more complete picture.

White has the tools to be a quality NBA defender. But I’m not sure he’s close to taking advantage of them.

Projection

Style comparison: Shannon Brown (Extremely athletic guard, who has defensive potential because of that, but only occasionally takes advantage of it. Didn’t find a fit offensively until he joined a team that allowed him to play point guard without handling almost any traditional point-guard duties.)

(Thanks to Daniel Bromwich for helping with the comparison.)

Ability comparison: Jason Kapono this year (Kapono, a usually solid role player and 3-point specialist, struggled with the 76ers’ Princeton offense because he didn’t fit the scheme, which required him to be a better all-around player.)

(Thanks to Sebastian Pruiti of Nets Are Scorching and probably more relevantly here, NBA Playbook, for helping with the comparison.) (Yes, I needed a lot of help with this section.) (I might also be using too many parentheses because of it.)

Bottom line: The good news? White has the physical tools and playing ability (emphasis on the former) to make an impact in this league.

The bad news? The odds of it happening in Detroit are pretty low.

He’s best-suited for an up-tempo system, which the Pistons didn’t have even before drafting Greg Monroe, who fits best in a half-court system. And White will be buried on the depth chart if Detroit doesn’t make a trade or let Will Bynum walk.

Maybe White has the talent to overcome all that, but it’s not likely.

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