Projecting NBA Ceiling for Creighton Star Doug McDermott

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterJanuary 9, 2014

OMAHA, NE - NOVEMBER 18: Doug McDermott #3 of the Creighton Bluejays reacts after a slam dunk against Presbyterian Blue Hose during their game at CenturyLink Center on November 18, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Career Three-point Shooting
3PTM3PTAThree-point percentage
2013-14 (through 15 games)3684.429

One of the most productive players in the country since 2011, Doug McDermott's NBA projections have been all over the map.

Now averaging 24.3 points a game after averaging 23.2 as a junior and 22.9 as a sophomore, McDermott has pretty much mastered the college game. Though he's the focal point of every opposing defense, nobody seems to have an answer for him.

But it doesn't take long to recognize what's kept him from generating can't-miss draft buzz.

McDermott isn't the same caliber of athlete as most of the NBA's scoring wings. He plays a below-the-rim, finesse brand of ball at a position that's loaded with lengthy, explosive forwards.

Despite all of his college production, many question just how well his game will translate, and what spot in the draft his ceiling is worth reaching for. But let's start with the basement floor and work our way up.

McDermott has been one of the most accurate three-point shooters in recent memory, and at the very least, he'll provide a team with a long-range specialist and floor-stretcher.

Take a look at his career three-point numbers as of January 9, 2014:

His accuracy and consistency are both off the charts—the guy never has two poor shooting nights in a row. And at 6'7'', he shouldn't have any trouble getting off clean looks on the NBA wing. 

When talking about McDermott, you can't help but think of Kyle Korver, another former Creighton star who recently signed a $24 million deal. Worst-case scenario, McDermott can serve as a Korver type of contributor in a specialized role as a sniper.

Creighton Athletics

But the real question isn't about his jumper—it's whether or not McDermott's scoring repertoire will translate from one level to the next.

You don't average 20-plus points a game for three straight years with just an outside shot. McDermott has a complete offensive game. Give him the ball and watch him work or run him off screens away from it—he's a scoring threat in every phase of the game.

However, McDermott's lack of athleticism, which limits him as a leaper and driver, and his below-average lateral quickness, which limits him as a defender, have weighed heavily on his draft stock. That's a potential major barrier to McDermott, who could have a tough time separating offensively or not being a defensive liability.

Realistically, McDermott will never evolve into a plus defender given his dull physical tools. But he does have the chance to emerge as a guy who can go out and get his team a bucket—and those guys hold value.

All he really needs is room to let it go, and of course, a green light from the sidelines, which he has at Creighton. McDermott can shoot it off the dribble, pulling up or stepping back, and he has the confidence and instincts to knock down shots with hands in his face. If he can eventually earn the freedom to work a little one-on-one, his ceiling would rise another story or two. 


Though not elusive off the bounce as a shot-creator, McDermott can still separate into clean, balanced looks. He's got a shot or counter move for every spot or angle on the floor.

McDermott has also had to expand his game each year to adjust to the different defensive looks from teams trying to take him away. Check out how quickly he picked up the patented Dirk Nowitzki one-legged fadeaway that's become so popular among NBA pros. 


McDermott's supporters are likely to point out his unteachable offensive instincts, high IQ and advanced offensive game as reasons why he'll succeed. And if he does succeed, they'll be right. 

Some guys just have a knack for putting the ball in the hoop, regardless of their competition or place in a lineup. You wouldn't call McDermott a post scorer, but he seems to always find a way to convert with his back to the rim.

Fox Sports

McDermott just has a natural feel for the game, with the ability to improvise and make shots he's never taken before.

The best ceiling comparison I've heard for McDermott so far has been former (one-time) All-Star Wally Szczerbiak, who at 6'7'' with similar limitations went on to average 14.1 points a game for his career. 

The guy just knew how to get off the shots he wanted, and he made them with enough consistency to be effective. That's the game plan for McDermott, who certainly has the skill level to follow in Wally's path.

But the odds are against him.

There aren't too many small forwards in the pros who take on full-time or starting duties without some sharp physical tools. With guys like Kawhi Leonard, Luol Deng and Paul George, long, 6'8'' physical athletes, starting at the 3, chances are McDermott will be mostly limited to spot-up and catch-and-finish scoring chances.

Still, his basement floor as a shooter and high-IQ presence could be first-round worthy depending on what your team is looking for. A playoff team drafting in the 20s might have McDermott circled on its board as we speak.

"I never thought I'd be in this position," McDermott told Ed Barmakian of the Associated Press (via The Republic), regarding the NBA scouts who have flocked to his games. "To have those guys come and watch is pretty cool. I've come a long way since early in my career. The NBA has always been a dream of mine. To be in a position to maybe make that happen is pretty cool."

I wouldn't bet on any All-Star invitations, but I'd put my money on McDermott developing into a valued, complementary scorer off an NBA bench.