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NBA Draft Expert's Notebook: Is Doug McDermott Worthy of a 2014 Lottery Pick?

Feb 7, 2014; Omaha, NE, USA; Creighton Bluejays forward Doug McDermott (3) looks to pass around DePaul Blue Demons forward DeJuan Marrero (1)during their NCAA mens basketball game against the DePaul Blue Demons at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports
Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterFebruary 14, 2014


Last Three Years
Field-goal percentangePoints per gameRebounds per game
2013-14.49925.37.1
2012-13.54823.27.7
2011-12.60122.98.2
ESPN

There's one of these type of guys every year. 

Some believe in Creighton senior Doug McDermott, while others just don't see it when they put on their NBA goggles.

McDermott has gotten to the point where he's nearly mastered the college game. He's the primary and secondary focus of every and any defense, yet nobody seems to have an answer.

And he keeps getting better despite the high mark he set the previous year.

Check out what he's done over the last three seasons in terms of production:

Feb 9, 2014; Jamaica, NY, USA;  Creighton Bluejays forward Doug McDermott (3) fades back to shoot over St. John's Red Storm forward Jakarr Sampson (14) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

He's been an absolute scoring machine—volume numbers night after night. And that's with every defense he faces completely concentrated on stopping him.

But we'd be here all night if we wanted to rattle off volume scorers in college who never made it as NBA pros.

It's not necessarily about the production—it's about how it's delivered, and whether or not that method can translate on an NBA floor. 

And McDermott operates without the one attribute that drives the majority of prospects' upsides: athleticism. 

McDermott lacks athleticism at a position that typically requires it in the NBA—at least for those applying for lottery-paid positions. 

He's not fast or overly quick, he's not aggressively physical and he doesn't get much lift or elevation. Think about the small forwards at the pro level—they're long, strong and explosive. And McDermott is neither. 

That's gotta scare some folks around a league that's seeing athleticism catch up to skill in terms of how it's being valued. 

Reflection of Below-Average Athleticism: Defensive Playmaking
Total StealsTotal Blocks
2013-1473
2012-1382
2011-1273
2010-11114
ESPN

Not to compare them directly because they play different positions, but back in 2011, Jimmer Fredette put teams in a similar pickle as the one McDermott is putting them in now. Fredette used to light up everyone at BYU, from mid-major to power-conference competition. 

But he was as a subpar athlete, and he was undersized at his position. The Sacramento Kings chose to ignore those details and select him with the No. 10 pick. And through a couple of seasons, we've seen his physical deficiencies limit his on-court capabilities. 

And there's just no denying that McDermott suffers from those same physical deficiencies.

Take a look at these mind-boggling defensive stats. I had to double-check them to make sure they were accurate. These numbers aren't a reflection of McDermott as a defender; rather, they illustrate his lack of playmaking ability when it comes to speed, jumping and reacting. 

McDermott has played at least 29 minutes in every season at Creighton, and he's totaled just 12 blocks and 33 steals over his three-and-a-half year career:

Nati Harnik/Associated Press

Athleticism allows guys to make plays that skill doesn't. You don't exactly have to be skilled to jump a passing lane, but you have to be quick enough.

And the same rules apply at both ends of the floor.

The question on scouts' minds is how well his offensive game will translate without the standard NBA physical tools to deliver it. 

Is McDermott going to be able to separate against wings like Luol Deng and Kawhi Leonard the way he can against forwards in the Big East?


via ESPN

He's off-the-charts skilled—McDermott is probably the most polished, advanced scorer in the country. Step-backs, fadeaways, pull-ups, runners, post moves—you name it, McDermott has a shot for every angle on the floor. 

He's got the fourth-highest offensive rating in the country according to Kenpom's advanced stats (subscription required), and he's third in the country in offensive wins shared, which measures how many wins should be credited to the presence of that particular player. 

Still, none of these accolades can fully make up for that lack of NBA athleticism, which acts as a straitjacket for many scorers when moving from one level to the next. 

However, while it might prevent him from separating, getting to the rack or taking over a game, the one thing it can't keep him from doing is shooting out the lights. McDermott has been one of the top shooters in the country for the last three years now. As a sophomore and junior, he finished both seasons over 48 percent from downtown. 

McDermott is currently shooting 42.7 percent from three, which if sustained, would mark the fourth year he's finished a season above 40 percent. 

Spotting up, one-to-two-dribble pull-ups, running off curls, slipping screens—McDermott knows how to get open, and with room to cleanly release, he's able to lock in with the rim, whether he's stationary or moving off the ball into a catch-and-shoot opportunity. 



via ESPN

Worst comes to worst, a team is getting themselves a three-point sniper who can spread the floor and make shots, the way Kyle Korver, another former Creighton star, has done for a number of years in the NBA. 

But if you're a general manager drafting in the lottery, you're hoping for something a little more than just a one-dimensional shooter—especially in a draft like this where there are plenty of high-upside options to choose from. 

And though McDermott is a more complete player than a guy like Korver, it would seem naive to think some of his current strengths won't get lost during the transition.

Just based on the history of scorers in college who lacked traditional NBA athleticism, the odds aren't with McDermott to produce lottery value. You won't find many guys at the pro level who share his physical limitations, yet still put up points in bulk without any restrictions.

Drafting him with the expectations that he'll evolve into a featured scorer just seems a bit too far-fetched. Personally, I'd feel more comfortable viewing him as a shot-maker—a guy who can spread the floor, knock down jumpers and finish plays opportunistically. 

John Peterson/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

At the pro level, the ball won't be in his hands nearly as much as it is now, where he sports a wild 36.1 percent usage rate, good for No. 3 in the country. Creighton uses McDermott in every way imaginable, and it should—at the college level, he's as tough a cover as any player in the country. 

I'm just not sure the chances of McDermott developing into a lottery-caliber scorer are high enough to justify passing on the talent that will be available.

Then again, between his high basketball IQ, elite-level jumper and ability to play without the ball, there's no doubt in my mind he sticks as a long-term rotation player.  

Regardless, in the 2014 NBA draft, I'd much rather have McDermott fall into my lap, as opposed to acquire him by reaching over potentially more rewarding candidates. He's going to be a contributor no matter where he ends up, and if you're a safety-first type of drafter, the back end of the lottery seems fair. 

But for those looking to make a splash or develop a higher-upside project, I'd let someone else stretch up the board and reach on McDermott's already-low ceiling. 

2014 NBA Draft Big Board
RankProspectSchoolPositionYear
1Joel EmbiidKansasCFreshman
2Jabari ParkerDukeSF/PFFreshman
3Andrew WigginsKansasSFFreshman
4Dante ExumAustraliaPG/SG1995
5Noah VonlehIndianaPF/CFreshman
6Julius RandleKentuckyPFFreshman
7Tyler EnnisSyracusePGFreshman
8Marcus SmartOklahoma StatePG/SGSophomore
9Rodney HoodDukeSFSophomore
10Gary HarrisMichigan StateSGSophomore
11James YoungKentuckySG/SFFreshman
12Zach LaVineUCLAPG/SGFreshman
13Dario SaricCroatiaSF/PF1994
14Willie Cauley-SteinKentuckyCSophomore
15P.J. HairstonTexas LegendsSGJunior
16Doug McDermottCreightonSFSenior
17Adreian PayneMichigan StatePFSenior
18Aaron GordonArizonaSF/PFFreshman
19Nik StauskasMichiganSGSophomore
20Jordan ClarksonMissouriPG/SGJunior
21T.J. WarrenN.C. StateSFSophomore
22Jerami GrantSyracuseSF/PFSophomore
23Montrezl HarrellLouisvillePFSophomore
24Jabari BrownMissouriSGJunior
25Nick JohnsonArizonaPG/SGJunior
26Clint CapelaSwitzerlandPF/C1994
27Wayne SeldenKansasSGFresman
28Glenn Robinson IIIMichiganSFSophomore
29Shabazz NapierConnecticutPGSenior
30Kyle AndersonUCLAPG/SFSophomore
Bleacher Report

 

Scout's Take 

"He might wind up in the lottery but is more around early-to-mid 20s for me," one scout told me. "He has more of a floor game than [Kyle] Korver and is better on D but isn't worth lottery money in my eyes," he said. 

Like I said, some buy into McDermott, while others just don't. 

McDermott was actually invited to the Team USA minicamp this summer to practice with some of the top players in the NBA. And according to reports, he held his own out there. 

“He did fine through the physicality,” Detroit Pistons power forward Greg Monroe told CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello. “He got to the rim a little bit. He definitely looked good.”

“He's a confident player. He's a confident shooter, a confident scorer,” New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson said to Borzello. “I think a college guy can come in here and be intimidated, but he wasn't. He accepted the challenge.” 

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

 

Heatin' Up

T.J. Warren, North Carolina State, 6'8", SF, Sophomore

Few players in the country can go out and get buckets like T.J. Warren—he converted 15 of them into 34 points in a beatdown on Wake Forest. Prior to that, he dropped 27 on Miami on 8-of-14 shooting.

He's even caught fire from downtown, an area that hasn't been one of his sweet spots this year. Warren has hit 10-of-18 three-pointers over his last five games, as he's been cooking from all over the floor.

Warren isn't the most athletic or explosive, but he's got a solid frame for a small forward, along with offensive instincts you just can't teach. He has his flaws, but at the end of the day, Warren can just flat-out get himself buckets.

Butch Dill/Associated Press

 

Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8", SF/PF, Freshman

Following a strong 21-point game on 8-of-10 shooting against Wake Forest, Parker went off for career highs of 29 points and 16 boards against Boston College. And all 50 of those combined points came in the paint. 

Instead of settling for jumpers, Parker has been using his physical frame and athleticism to pick up easier buckets closer to the rim. He's been tough in the post, a threat off the dribble and a constant presence on the offensive glass. 

Parker has quickly busted through that freshman wall, and he appears poised for a serious run at that No. 1 pick. 

 

Coolin' Off

James Young, Kentucky, 6'6", SG/SF, Freshman

The rim must look like a Solo cup for James Young at this point—over his last three games, he's made just six of his last 26 shots, including a 1-of-10 performance against Auburn. 

Despite the 14-point average and 2.2 three-pointers a game, Young hasn't exactly been very efficient—he's shooting just under 40 percent from the floor, 33.1 percent from downtown and only 66.3 percent from the line. 

Young has the stroke. We've seen him heat up and knock down shots in bunches. Hopefully for him, his shooting inconsistency will eventually fade. 

 

Gary Harris, Michigan State, 6'4", SG, Sophomore

Harris has been inconsistent this year. His highs are high, but his lows have been awfully low. Harris missed a whopping 17 shots in a two-point loss to Wisconsin. He's now made just 18 of his last 61 shots (29.5 percent) over his previous four games, while shooting just 7-of-30 from downtown. 

His production is up significantly this year, only his efficiency has suffered greatly. I still like Harris based on his ability to defend and score within the offense. Hopefully, he can get this out of his system before the conference and NCAA tournaments.

 

Update Abroad 

Dario Saric, Cibona, 6'10", SF/PF 

Saric has been one of the most productive prospects overseas this season after generating lottery interest a year ago. He currently leads the Adriatic League in rebounding, and he's third in both scoring and steals. 

Those stats portray his versatility. At 6'10", Saric can score in the post, put it on the deck, crash the glass, facilitate from the wing and knock down open jumpers. He's a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type of forward. 

Saric has double-doubled in five of his last six games in the Adratic League, most recently going for 22 points and 12 boards in a win over Partizan.

There are questions regarding how well his defensive game will translate, but it's his offensive versatility that drives his NBA appeal. 

 

Clint Capela, Chalon, 6'10", PF/C

Capela has been rising up draft boards, as his production and playing time continue to increase in France. 

He recently played a season-high 36 minutes, where he finished with 10 points, seven boards and a block. Capela had been coming off a career game against Roanne, when he shot nine of 13 for 21 points and nine boards. 

He made himself noticeable a few years ago thanks to his monstrous size and length. And now he's putting those physical tools to use, as Capela has emerged as a legitimate option on draft day. 

 

Fourth-Quarter Thoughts

  • Syracuse's Tyler Ennis had been playing his worst game of the year before hitting two free throws and a running three to win at the buzzer in Pittsburgh. But that's what makes this kid so likable—nothing seems to phase him when the pressure is highest. I've got a strong feeling some team is going to either trade or reach up to grab Ennis in the draft—especially if he's able to take the Orange on a Final Four run. Just prior to Ennis' game-winning shot, we moved him up to No. 5 in our latest 2014 mock draft.

 

  • Florida freshman Chis Walker hasn't been playing much since he was ruled eligible over a week ago. But you can tell he appears limited to simply finishing at the rim and blocking shots. Walker should really consider coming back to school for a full year of regular minutes instead of chasing the first round this June. 

 

  • Missouri's Jabari Brown has quietly had a monster breakout season, where he's averaging 20.1 points a game on 46 percent shooting from downtown. He's got the NBA size for a 2-guard, along with a lights-out stroke and some impressive scoring instincts. I recently moved Brown into our latest first-round mock, as he's become a name to watch down the stretch of the NBA draft race. 

 

  • Michigan's Glenn Robinson III just can't seem to get it right. For every encouraging stretch comes a disappointing one. He's scored in single-digits in five of his last six games. Sometimes, you're not even sure if he's on the floor or the bench. Robinson has clearly struggled without a point guard like Trey Burke, and it's going to affect his draft stock. 

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