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There's a Reason Why McDermott Doesn't Play More

Doug's gaudy offensive numbers are great, but his defense might be the worst in the league.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get this out of the way first - Doug McDermott has been outstanding on offense. He's 2nd in the league in 3 point percentage at 51.2% and has fixed his problems of finishing at the rim that plagued him last year (Doug's shot chart). Even with his tremendous offense though, his value is still dubious because of how bad he's been on the other end.

Doug has only played 569 minutes of NBA ball, yet there are already hundreds of video clips flooding the internet of him completely falling apart on defense.

Ricky O'Donnell covered Doug's defense earlier this month with some great video footage that you should check out. In light of Tim Legler's comments today about McDermott deserving more playing time, here's an explanation of why it's hard to keep Doug out there and an addendum to Ricky's great work on how poor Doug's defense has been this last week.

Poor Fundamentals Going Around Picks

Kevin Ferrigan showed last year how poor McDermott is at getting around screens. Doug certainly has not solved that problem. The culmination of his ineptitude came up against the Suns last week.

Bulls' assistant coach Jim Boylen probably stayed up all night scouting this Phoenix Suns play. Boylen knew that Bledsoe was aiming to come down to the block and set a cross screen on McDermott.

Boylen bolted up from his seat on the bench as the Suns came down on this possession and screamed at the top of his lungs to McDermott, "PAY ATTENTION!"

McDermott looked at his coach and saw Eric Bledsoe coming down to set a pick. Doug repeatedly glanced over at an incoming Bledsoe as Boylen yelled his name again and again: "DOUG! DOUG! DOUG!"

Boylen yellled one final warning at McDermott as Bledsoe was slowing to set his pick, "GET READY!"  This was clearly a play that Boylen prepped Doug for. Here was Doug's moment of truth (turn the volume on):

Eric Bledsoe is a strong guy, but come on Doug. Bledsoe is a 6' 1" point guard, Doug sees him coming, the coaches have prepped him on the play, given him a 4 second continual warning, and he STILL can't do anything but leave PJ Tucker wide open 2 feet from the basket. His footwork is truly atrocious. He crosses his feet like he's dancing, moves INTO the pick, and as he sees Tucker fly by, he can't even keep two feet on the ground let alone get by to cut off a pass.

That's what we call totally hopeless. (Fun Note: The Suns ran the same play again later and Snell, who is just as bad as Doug at getting through picks, got totally floored too)

Too Weak for 4's, Too Slow for 3's, Historically Poor Athleticism

It shouldn't surprise anyone who has seen McDermott play that Eric Bledsoe can push him around. Everyone pushes McDermott around.

There was a theory propagating around that Doug might be exposed less if he guarded bigger 4's instead of the weakest perimeter player, as is his current assignment. Doug told the Tribune:

"The main thing is I'm really trying to get better defensively in practice... I guarded a lot of (power forwards) in college. I'm guarding (small forwards) who are athletic here.

Doug was switched to guarding wings because he stands no shot strength-wise to guard 4's. Witness Draymond Green pummeling him in the paint and Doug weakly contesting with his hands straight up. You're allowed to jump, Doug.

The situation has been even worse on the glass. Doug constantly gets bullied down in the paint for rebounds and can't box out to save his life: This presents an especially glaring problem on pick and rolls. Teams target Doug while he's out there, and oftentimes he must cover the roll man who is diving towards the basket. Even when Doug is in position to make a good box out, he's too weak to keep guys out and oftentimes gets pushed underneath the basket:

Doug gave up another offensive rebound on a poor box out on this same possession. It's hard to stop teams when they have 3 chances at scoring, all due to McDermott not being able to box out.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to the Bulls. They knew about McDermott's weaknesses coming in. From his DraftExpress profile:

Is he quick enough to guard small forwards? Or big and strong enough to handle power forwards? That's the question every team picking in the mid to late lottery will be asking. He posted a career total of 34 steals and 15 blocks in 4636 minutes of action at Creighton, a historically poor rate, and also isn't a great rebounder.

Those predraft questions about Doug's athleticism have resoundingly been answered.

In 569 NBA minutes, Doug has 5 career steals and 2 career blocks. Those are almost exactly in line with his per-minute rates in college. This season, Doug is on pace to play 1700 minutes, block 7 shots, and get 7 steals. No player has ever played that many NBA minutes before and gotten so few steals and blocks.

The problem isn't that Doug doesn't get steals or blocks - it's that the inability to accrue those stats reflects a complete lack of athleticism, a problem the Bulls knew about but ignored when they drafted him.

Defensive Blooper of the Week:

It seems like every game, the internet buzzes with a new McDermott defensive blunder highlight. Here is this week's:

Doug's defense can be highlight-worthy bad, but even on the more mundane plays, he hurts the team. Per NBAWowy, the team's defensive rating is now 106.2 with Doug on the court and drops to 97.4 off. That's huge - it's the difference between the 27th-ranked defense and the 6th-ranked defense in the league.

Doug can still bring a lot to the court, but he's gotta figure out a way to get better on defense. He's still only 23 years old, so there is hope but he's not helping as much as his offensive numbers might suggest as of now.