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How Doug McDermott had the best game of his career

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday night Doug McDermott had his career-best performace, scoring 31 points on 9-16 shooting in the Bulls win.

The majority of McDermott’s points came during a blistering second quarter run, which saw him score 14 straight for the Bulls. While McDermott’s scoring run was one of the more amazing things we’ve seen this Bulls’ season, it was the ways in which he scored that was the most impressive.

There are times during games where you can forget that Doug is even on the floor, primarily being used as a floor spacer around the arch for Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Then there are those moments when he’s involved in the pick-and-roll with Butler, or unleashing his Dirk-esque fadeaway that show you how dangerous he can be when used properly.

And that’s exactly what we witnessed in Memphis. Let’s break down the different ways that McDermott was able to get his groove back.


Bench Unit

If there’s one nice thing I can say about Rajon Rondo (maybe the only one) is his concerted effort in getting McDermott the ball with the second unit.

While that was only one clip, there were several occasions during the second period where Rondo was working to get McDermott in position for open looks. Yes, Rondo is quite the enigma, but there are times when he’s extremely smart (I say this begrudgingly) in knowing when and how to get shooters such as McDermott in position to score.

In addition, Chicago’s bigs Cristiano Felicio and Bobby Portis each did an excellent job in setting screens that allowed him get open looks from various places on the floor.

In this first clip we see two great plays from McDermott and Felicio to make this work. As McDermott drives his man up the lane (Vince Carter), the defender decides to go over the screen. Both Bulls players realizing this, McDermott flares as Felicio is able to screen Carter just enough to give him time to get the shot off.

I’m not sure how much this says about him in the grand scheme of things, but this play by Portis may very well be his best of the season. This is right after the previous three, and you can see Portis hunt right away for McDermott’s defender to free him for the three. While he isn’t able to set the best screen, that subtle move when he sticks his butt out throws the defender off course just enough for Doug to get the shot off.

Working out of the post

An area of strength for McDermott that head coach Fred Hoiberg doesn’t utilize nearly enough, is his ability to score out of the post, or short-corner situations. This was a vital part of his game that led him to being one the best scorers in NCAA history. And yet through almost three years of his NBA career, it’s been used seldomly.

Sunday gave us further evidence as to why that shouldn’t be the case.

With Troy Daniels guarding him, McDermott used his 6’8 frame to advantage, taking him into the post on two separate possessions, scoring on both. At only 6’4 himself, Daniels doesn’t present any real challenge to McDermott, essentially becoming simple practice shots. And because McDermott has been so effective in these situations, there needs to be more emphasis from both parties (coaches and Doug) to get these type of looks out of the post moving forward.

This simple cross-screen action above used to get McDermott a quick look? Just another element of his past scoring prowess that can be used more often. His ability to get a good position and an angle by the basket, and to be able to have the quick release to prevent a block is a learned, valued skill that isn’t used nearly enough.

McDermott is much more than just a floor spacer for Butler or Wade, someone you place in the corner in hopes they take advantage when the time comes. The Bulls coaching staff can use him in a variety of ways, many of which can actually help alleviate some of the pressure off of the aforementioned duo. Sunday night was a perfect example of that, but for the Bulls and McDermott, that needs to become a more consistent theme.