Doug McDermott, the swashbuckling one-man band who spurred Creighton’s round of 32 run in each of the past two seasons, is on the precipice of making the biggest decision of his life.
When McDermott got rung up with his fifth foul with 37 seconds remaining in the Bluejays’ 66-50 loss to Duke on Sunday, it may have been the last time he'll ever wear a Creighton uniform. The night could have gone better. McDermott finished with 21 points but shot only 4-of-16 from the field, as the Bluejays’ offense cratered without his shot-making.
That performance was one of a select few disappointments for McDermott in 2012-13.
The 6’7” small forward ascended in his third collegiate season, averaging 23.2 points and 7.7 rebounds while leading Creighton to a 28-8 record. A blessed shooter with a 5,000 thread count jump shot, McDermott knocked down 56.1 percent of his shots, including 49 percent from beyond the arc. He knocked those shots down despite being a nightly version of the Ringling Brothers—the only show in town.
With All-American recognitions and NCAA tournament appearances on his resume, many have wondered whether McDermott will forgo his senior season to enter the NBA draft. For now, not even McDermott knows himself.
"I think it's just going to hit me at some moment," McDermott said (via CBS Sports). "I'll just be like, 'This is what I'm gonna do.' But it's still up in the air. I have no idea what I'm going to do."
As many know, McDermott’s decision is not your typical “will he or won’t he” early-20s romancing with professionalism. Creighton is coached by Greg McDermott, Doug’s father, which adds another massive monkey wrench to the situation.
The Bluejays have essentially propped themselves up on Doug’s back, which could leave Greg in an awfully precarious situation in 2013-14. Nevertheless, the elder McDermott has made it clear he knows where his true responsibility lies in this situation.
"I have a responsibility to Doug, as his coach, to do the research and provide the information he needs to make an educated decision," Greg McDermott said (via CBS Sports). "But when he needs somebody to talk to about it; he can't be talking to his coach. He needs to be talking to his father.”
Taking a look at the 2013 NBA draft, it’s clear Greg’s fatherly advice should be for his son to leave Omaha.
Despite his scoring dominance in college, Doug McDermott is not seen as a surefire professional prospect—far from it. He’s considered a borderline prospect, ranking anywhere from 31st on CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman’s rankings to 45th and 46th on Draft Express and ESPN’s Chad Ford’s lists, respectively.
Considering how wildly NBA draft boards vary and the little less than three months remaining between now and June’s festivities, McDermott could safely call himself a borderline first-round pick. That’s, of course, on the optimistic side of things, but all it takes is one team—just ask 2012 shocker Miles Plumlee.
On the surface, being a borderline first-rounder doesn’t seem all that enticing for McDermott. Only the first 30 picks in the NBA draft get guaranteed contracts, and if McDermott wanted to risk getting not paid to play basketball, he might as well stick around and hang with pops for another year.
That’s true. It also ignores why McDermott is even getting first-round consideration altogether.
Take a look at Goodman, Draft Express and Ford’s rankings again. Notice the names atop the lists. Nerlens Noel, a center with a non-existent offensive game who just had a complete ACL tear, is firmly on the mountaintop in two of the three rankings. Sixty percent or more of their top five players were out of the NCAA tournament after the round of 64 or did not make it whatsoever.
Put bluntly: The 2013 NBA draft class shapes up to be one of the worst in recent history. It’s been often compared to the 2006 class, which produced only three All-Stars, one of which was Brandon Roy.
The talent at the top is questionable and shallow—and that’s assuming everyone expected to declare throws his name in the pot. Kentucky freshmen Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin, initially expected to enter June’s draft, have all indicated they’re leaning toward staying in Lexington.
That means opportunity for players like McDermott. Teams will be grasping at straws toward the end of the first round, searching for translatable skills they can plug somewhere as an eighth or ninth man.
McDermott is elite at the most translatable skill of them all: shooting. He’s been compared plenty to former Creighton star Kyle Korver, and that’s a pretty fair assessment. McDermott can drain shots from anywhere on the floor, hardly ever makes bad decisions with the ball and plays hard every possession—mainly because he had to at Creighton.
Nevertheless, he also has plenty of deficiencies that make NBA coaches understandably wary. It’s unfair to call him a can’t-jump-over-a-Pringles-can bad athlete because he can finish at the rim, but McDermott is a below-average athlete. He also doesn’t create off the dribble and doesn’t possess enough strength or size to work his post game in the NBA.
Teams will view him as what they should—a possibly elite catch-and-shoot prospect. Is that enough to get him first-round consideration? Not in most seasons. But in 2013, a playoff team that likes shooters—Miami comes to mind—might just pull the trigger.
What is clear is that this is the only season McDermott can obtain guaranteed money. The landscape will go from barrel-scraping to overflowing by the time June of 2014 rolls around.
Prep superstars Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are considered two of the best high school players since LeBron James—and this time it might not be a bunch of nonsensical hooey. They lead a Class of 2013 that has been touted as one of the best ever, with Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and a bevy of other big names adorning the field.
Combine those players with Cauley-Stein, Poythress and Goodwin—assuming they return—and the 2014 NBA draft class will be a hotbed of talent.
What should Doug McDermott do?
The gap between the 2013 and 2014 class is so great that McDermott would have to add 10 ranking spots at a minimum to his draft standing if he returned.
While returning to Creighton for another season would give McDermott an opportunity to bulk up a bit, it would do little else. He isn’t going to grow any taller, become a Shawn Marion circa 2005 defender on the perimeter or suddenly start throwing down tomahawk jams like Dominique Wilkins.
McDermott is who he is, and that’s fine. Plenty of players have had long, prosperous careers with his exact skill set. And considering the way he propped up teammates at Creighton, betting against McDermott seems like a fool’s errand.
But if McDermott wants to maximize his draft stock—and thus, his earnings with his first contract—he needs to strike while the iron is still freezing cold for NBA prospects.