One of the more prominent 2014 NBA Draft night trades was the Chicago Bulls acquisition of Creighton forward and college basketball's fifth all-time leading scorer, Doug McDermott. In exchange for the three time first team All-American and the consensus 2014 National Player of the Year, the Bulls sent the Denver Nuggets the rights to #16 pick Jusuf Nurkic of Bosnia and #19 pick Gary Harris of Michigan State, along with a future second round pick going to Denver in the deal.
The McDermott trade made waves for several reasons — most notable among them is that for once, the Bulls' devout secrecy of their internal decisions finally fell in accordance with the rumor mill. Pre-draft talk indicated the Bulls desire for McDermott. That desire came to fruition on draft night, and McDermott became a Bull despite the skepticism surrounding the 6-foot-8 tweener's game.
Although a discussion on salary-cap and money are indeed necessary, let us begin by delving into what McDermott can and cannot do on a basketball court. As with any draftee, if the Bulls brain-trust and scouting department felt as strongly as they did about McDermott, there must be good reason the team felt compelled to trade up for him, right?
This trade was about the player (being McDermott) and nothing else more than meets-the-eye (potential free agency moves), so it appears to this point. The Bulls longed for a player with McDermott's skill-set, and clearly were not to be denied.
By now, you're probably familiar with McDermott's surface skill that appears most translatable at an NBA-level, his shooting. Don't fall into the trap of believing the lazy comparison to Gonzaga's Adam Morrison when talking about McDermott. It doesn't hold much merit when you compare shooting numbers between the two.
Per Sports Reference, McDermott's true shooting and effective field goal percentages are about four points higher a piece in favor of McDermott when pitted up against Morrison in their final collegiate seasons. More so, McDermott shot better clips while putting up more shots on average per 40 minutes.
The McDermott-Morrison conversation should end there, but even when taking away numbers and watching the tape, McDermott is the purer shot. Morrison's game and scoring ability while at Gonzaga required a little too much craftiness for his own good and not enough refinement. When Morrison was in college, he found ways to score taking advantage of inferior athleticism and versus lesser competition.
McDermott on the other hand is a dead-eye shooter from a standstill. To boot, McDermott developed a post-game and was elite in the pick-and-pop among the field of college players in the draft. How many other players in the 2014 draft class offer both of those abilities? How many offer even one? In a draft full of potential, McDermott comes ready.
For the Bulls, McDermott presents floor-spacing in which they can rely on. Meaning, the team won't expect McDermott to find his own shot, he'll be the beneficiary of shots being created for him where he'll be able to rise-up and shoot from a stationary position. One or two dribbles, max. Ideally and presumably, McDermott will be buried in the corner behind the three point line and knock down a shot he's made at every level.
Unlike Morrison, who was asked to play a similar role in the NBA to that he played in college — McDermott won't be the source of offense he was in college, his tasks will be simplified and minimized. Fact of the matter, the only prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft who could score from day one at a similar level to that of his college production is Duke's Jabari Parker.
Not to say McDermott's offensive game isn't polished, but the Bulls view themselves as the perfect landing spot for what McDermott should realistically be capable of producing. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times: the player's success falls in place if the team uses the player correctly.
The weaknesses in McDermott's game aren't going away soon and are very existent. The biggest concern is who can he guard? He's a liability on the perimeter if he's guarding slashing forwards, and he'll be bullied in the post by taller or bigger forwards. Any forward with a combination of those abilities will give McDermott major problems.
Yet, McDermott now plays for the most innovative and influential defensive coach in the NBA for the past five seasons now. If McDermott's inadequacies didn't deter Tom Thibodeau, that should count for something. Thibs' defensive philosophy, approach, won't put McDermott in positions to fail too often. Of course, plays breakdown and smart teams will try to exploit McDermott, but Thibs will try to hide and protect McDermott.
What the Bulls are concerned with is what McDermott can do, not with what he can't do. If McDermott struggles with shooting and is missing open shots, then the questioning begins. Until then, for a team that's been so offensively challenged, adding McDermott makes sense from a purely basketball perspective.
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