Jack White’s debut season playing professionally in Australia’s NBL came crashing to a halt in April 2021. In the 11th game of White’s encouraging rookie year with Melbourne United, he ruptured his Achilles. Surgery followed. Then, a long, meticulous and painstaking rehab.
White returned to Melbourne’s lineup just eight months later. He played 18 minutes in a blowout win over the New Zealand Breakers only 261 days after suffering the worst injury a basketball player can suffer. Soon, White got his confidence back. He rediscovered the rhythm on his jumpshot. His explosion returned. There’s even a rumor that White added over an inch to his vertical since the injury.
His comeback became complete Sunday when White agreed to a two-way contract with the Nuggets following an impressive run at Summer League. The news was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski yesterday afternoon. White played 26 games for Melbourne last season and averaged 9.3 points (53.6 FG%, 24.4 3P%) and 6.9 rebounds. He was then a late arrival to Nuggets Summer League minicamp after suiting up for the Australian National team in three World Cup qualifiers but quickly made an impression in Denver.
White went to Las Vegas with the Nuggets as a darkhorse for a two-way deal but simply outplayed Matt Mitchell and Adonis Arms, the other top contenders for Denver’s second two-way contract. The 24-year-old shot 16-23 (69.6%) from the floor across five Summer League games. He led the Nuggets with 35 total rebounds in Vegas despite only logging the sixth-most minutes on Denver’s roster. White finished with the 18th-best PER at Summer League and 20th-ranked EFG%.
The Nuggets were impressed with White’s team-first approach and play style at Summer League — or as us Vegas veterans call it, Selfish League — in a setting where it’s typically hard for non-scoring-oriented role players to stand out. But White turned heads with his rebounding and selfless play. He recorded 15 rebounds in just 21 minutes off the bench last week against Cleveland. He hauled in nine rebounds (four offensive) in 21 minutes Sunday vs. Utah. He finished with the 12th-best REB% at the Vegas showcase. White played within his skill-set on offense too, limiting himself to high percentage shots that came within the rhythm and flow of the Nuggets’ offense.
“Although it might favor scorers and guys that are good with the ball, I still feel like there’s a lot of value for guys like me who don’t need the ball in their hand and can still impact winning in a positive way,” White said when DNVR asked him how his individual skill-set fits at Summer League. “I think me coming in and understanding that and knowing I can still make plays with the ball in my hand, but the majority of the time I’m just going to have to be solid without the ball, defensively, my talk, rebounding those things that I can control. Just really trying to do a high-level job of that and the other stuff will come.”
That’s who White is. He’s a rebounder, defender and connector. White was a below-average 3-point shooter in college and abroad but flashed an improved jumper throughout Summer League practices. He only shot 2-4 from 3 in Vegas. Some of that low volume came from the fact that White continually passed up good shots for great ones. He’s a solid defender and a good athlete. White doesn’t have an incredibly high ceiling, but you can see how he could contribute if he finds his way onto an NBA court next season. Picture him as a slightly shorter Vlatko Cancar who has the same altruistic approach to basketball as his countryman Joe Ingles.
Denver valued White’s pedigree too. White was a four-year player and two-year captain at Duke where he shared a locker room with future NBA players like Jayson Tatum, Wendell Carter, RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson just to name a few. He’s a leader and a great teammate who’s a grinder and a ‘first guy in last guy out’ of the gym type of worker. White was Duke’s representative during his junior and senior seasons at the ACC’s annual preseason conference media day. He was a two-time All-ACC Academic selection. His leadership will help set a solid culture in Grand Rapids with the Nuggets’ G League team where White’s expected to spend chunks of next season.
Former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called White the “best teammate ever” in 2020 as White’s college career wrapped up.
Michael Malone enjoyed watching White practice and play over the last couple of weeks, and it’s pretty clear that White is a Malone-type of player. His intangibles and leadership are specific characteristics that Malone loves. Calvin Booth told DNVR last week one aspect that makes his job easy is that he knows the types of players Malone likes from being around Denver’s coach for the last six years. From draft night, and then Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown, and now Jack White, Booth has been proven right. These are Malone guys that he’s brought in.
Those who have tracked White since his college days also refer to him as a coach on the floor and the type of integral glue guy that every great team needs. White excels in a fifth option-type role. He doesn’t need the ball or shots to be effective. His style leads to winning basketball. He amassed a 114-29 record in four seasons at Duke.
White stuck to that same style last week in Vegas.
It’s what secured him the two-way contract with the Nuggets.