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Whither Doug McDermott?

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Doug McDermott was activated on January 19th after a meniscus tear and subsequent surgery sidelined him for 5 weeks. He's barely played since, only appearing in 2 games during garbage time.

Sean Highkin at Bleacher Report makes the case that playing the guy should at least be tried:

McDermott was supposedly ready to contribute immediately. The Bulls’ window for title contention is now, the team’s thinking went, and they don’t have three years to develop a project player.


On a team that so badly needs outside shooting of any kind, one that’s so desperately in search of of something, anything, to break it out of this slump, isn't McDermott at least worth a longer look when nothing else in the offense is working?

Beyond the 'NBA-ready'-ness of the McDermott draft selection, Highkin also brings up the draft-day trade. That was objectively a bad deal at the time, and probably is just a sunk cost. Besides, it's not Thibs's job to justify the front office's valuation judgements. However, given the tension between them, it probably would be a nice bone to throw upstairs if Thibs decided to try him out, especially with Mike Dunleavy possibly sidelined until the All-Star break and the other options being awful.

Thibs has been asked about playing the Bulls first-round pick, but has been vague in his answers, calling him simply not ready or 'a work in progress'. On Friday, Thibs even brought up the possibility of McDermott being sent to the D-League after the All-Star break*, truly a basketball Siberia given how the Bulls treat that developmental organization.

*(you'd think the time to send him would be now, but the Bulls affiliate - that's shared with a bunch of other teams - has 2 games this weekend and is off until the 17th, and so they'd probably rather have him at Bulls practices)

What's not known is whether McDermott is not trusted by Thibs because he's still working his way back from the surgery, or that he's not NBA-ready at all.

McDermott was awful and out of the rotation even before his knee acted up. And for all the justified teeth-nashing over seeing Kirk Hinrich putting up one of the worst statistical seasons in the entire league, I do think that Thibs has a bunch of bad options. And when faced with a choice, he's going to go with the guy who he trusts will work in his defensive scheme. And defense is a gigantic problem with this team right now, so while you could reason 'it can't be worse!', there probably would be a drop-off from Hinrich to McDermott.

But the offense is a problem too, especially the spacing. I'll just leave this here:

Thibodeau thinks defense 1st (through 65th), but Bulls awful outside shooting (and thus offense) has an impact on that end as well. Teams can run out on misses before the Bulls can even set up, exposing their transition defense.

So yes, I think it's "worth a try", too. But the fact that it hasn't been tried just against the idea there's some philosophical change from the Bulls: as if this slide is just a byproduct from them not treating the regular season with as much importance. If that was the case, you'd have seen more McDermott (or in his absence, Snell and Moore) at the expense of the overworked (Butler), old (Hinrich), or both (Dunleavy). This would both ease up on certain contributors during the 82-game grind while also developing a player who can help this very postseason. Right now that's not happening, and they're losing a lot of games too.