Doug McDermott’s first two seasons with the Chicago Bulls were mostly underwhelming, especially considering his age and the loot the Bulls gave up to acquire him on draft night in 2014. The first year wasn’t entirely his fault as he underwent knee surgery in the middle of the season and was stapled to the bench when he returned, but he was also really bad when he did play, so Tom Thibodeau’s reasoning for keeping him pinned to said bench was at least justified.
Last season saw some tangible improvement, mostly in regards to his three-point shooting. He shot 42.5 percent from long range and had several games where the “McBuckets” moniker was truly apt. (Hi, Trashtors!)
However, Dougie still left a lot to be desired, unless your thing is watching Vines of a clueless defender running around like his head was cut off. McDermott can still be a somewhat useful player if all he ever provides is elite three-point shooting (that rings even more true on a Bulls squad that’ll sorely need his outside shooting), but Ian Levy over at Nylon Calculus outlined yesterday some specific aspects of his game that need improvement if he wants to make a significant leap in his pivotal third season in the league.
McDermott’s defense obviously needs a lot of work, and maybe those offseason workouts with Jimmy Butler will help in that regard. McDermott’s defense is so bad that even an improvement to slightly below average or merely mediocre would be a big plus. Levy of course pointed out that that kind of improvement is necessary for McDermott to be “an important player on a good team,” but he also noted that Doug needs to make his offensive game more well-rounded:
Although McDermott shot a robust 42.5 percent on three-pointers last season on a high number of attempts, he didn’t offer much else on the offensive end. He had nearly as many turnovers (53) as assists (59) and shot 55.4 percent inside the restricted area, 152nd of 186 players with at least 150 attempts in that area.
If we look at granular usage statistics, McDermott used just 26 possessions as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll, just 21 in post-ups and less than 10 as the screener in the pick-and-roll. Almost all of McDermott’s half-court offensive opportunities were spotting up or coming off screens and curls. His jump shot was reliable this season but he had less than 100 drives on the entire season and shot just 39.1 percent on those drives — a reflection of how ineffective he was attacking closeouts or doing something other than shooting off the catch.
All these numbers, plus his poor rebound/steal/block rates, back up the assertion of many that McDermott really doesn’t do anything besides shoot it well from outside. (I will admit he had some sweet dunks last year.) And if McDermott wants to make a significant impact on a really good team, he’ll have to develop some of his other skills. Levy brought up the Kyle Korver/J.J. Redick comparisons, which I don’t like but are inevitable, and pointed out how both guys turned into true impact players by becoming capable passers, defenders and finishers around the basket, among other things, to go along with their elite shooting.
Of course, a big question is what kind of opportunities McDermott will get on this Bulls roster. As mentioned, his already elite skill, spot-up shooting, will be vital to Chicago. But will he get more chances in some of these other areas?
I’m doubting we see him used much as a ball handler given the other ones on the team, but the Bulls should look at getting him more chances in the post when the matchups call for it, and using him as a screener in screen-and-pop situations could be deadly. An increase in drives off the catch when defenders close out hard on him would also be helpful (plus, you know, finishing), and that could also lead to more free throw attempts.
It’d be a huge boon to the Bulls if McDermott can develop some of these skills and be a legitimate positive player rather than a liability who can occasionally get hot with his jumper. But if all else fails, he just needs to fire away from three as much as possible to justify playing him significant minutes. I’m talking like five or six three-pointers a game, because if the the development in those other areas doesn’t come, what’s the point of playing him?