Will Creighton Star Doug McDermott's Game Translate to the NBA?

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2014

Mar 1, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Creighton Bluejays forward Doug McDermott (3) during the first half against the Xavier Musketeers at the Cintas Center. Xavier defeated Creighton 75-69. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Creighton's highly decorated senior Doug McDermott has reached rarefied air in the NCAA world, breaking countless records and asserting his dominance for all four years. As he competes in the final phase of his collegiate career at the 2014 Big Dance, NBA fans are wondering if his game will translate to the Association.

Currently fifth on the NCAA's all-time scoring list with more than 3,100 points, "Dougie McBuckets" has scored in every possible way from everywhere imaginable. He's clearly head and shoulders above his peers when it comes to skills, smarts and box score results.

But college glory doesn't automatically translate to professional success. Decision-makers at the next level are wondering how McDermott's below-average athleticism will affect his ability to attack as a scorer and defend prolific NBA forwards.

We broke down the Bluejays star to see if his game will translate to the NBA and whether he merits top-10 consideration.


Can He Create Enough Offense?

Mar 21, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns guard Elfrid Payton (2) defends against Creighton Bluejays forward Doug McDermott (3) in the second half of a men's college basketball game during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tourn
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

As scouts and general managers mull over the possibility of picking McDermott, his shooting is the last thing they'll question. The 6'8" scoring machine is shooting 46 percent for his career from three-point land and has repeatedly shown proficiency from NBA-arc distance.

But how will he fare when he's not handed gift-wrapped spot-up chances? Can he score in the post or beat wings off the dribble?

McDermott has been an effective post player against his Missouri Valley and Big East opponents, carving them up with his tremendous footwork and brilliant positioning. He's also been able to find mid-range opportunities against swingmen and score with his quick release.

Unfortunately for him, NBA defenders will be infinitely bigger, stronger and more explosive. His low-block attempts and slashes from the wing will be much less frequent.

Nevertheless, he'll find ways to be much more than a spot-up shooting specialist.

McDermott can hit turnaround jumpers and fadeaways, and he has just enough ball-handling and footwork to get the job done. Whenever he's matched up against someone similarly sized or smaller, he'll be able to employ the "Dirk-leg" shot. You know, the back-leg fadeaway that Dirk Nowitzki has perfected?

Doug may end up being be the second-best Dirk-leg shooter on the planet:

This move won't work every time, and he doesn't have the luxury of a 7-foot frame like Nowitzki. But it will earn him buckets when his defender is on his heels or caught sleeping.

What about driving to the rim? Will he be able to beat his man off the bounce all the way to the basket?

Don't count on it to happen too often.

McDermott's foot speed is well below average, and he's not shifty enough as a ball-handler to break his man down and blow by him. He won't find too many scoring chances in isolation situations.

However, he's crafty enough to use his shooting reputation against the defense, and his dribbling skills are dependable enough for him to navigate lanes and finish off the glass.

Check out this sequence against St. John's, where he catches, pump-fakes and drives for a lefty finish. Granted, the help defense was poor, but it's an example of what McDermott can do even against athletic foes.

The bottom line is that McDermott will prove to be more than a rotational shooting specialist. He's got the instincts and touch to notch double figures off the bench, and potentially 15-plus if he can see enough playing time.


Will He Be a Defensive Liability?

It's hard to imagine McDermott not struggling defensively in the NBA. He puts forth great effort at the college level, but the sheer athleticism of the NBA is going to give him trouble.

If he's caught on an island against a capable swingman, odds are he'll get beaten or commit a foul. If he's stuck in a matchup against a bigger power forward, he's not going to be able to contest him in the paint.

Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix said that these defensive-role concerns are the most distressing aspect of McDermott's NBA candidacy:

Any questions about McDermott's future in the NBA begin with defense. At 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, McDermott is a man without an NBA position. He doesn't appear to be quick or athletic enough to defend small forwards and doesn't have the size to match up with power forwards.

Former NBA skipper Stan Van Gundy told Mannix that this defensive quandary may prevent McDermott from being a starter:

Size-wise, you would think he would have to be an [NBA] three-man. I don't know who he is going to be able to guard in the NBA. I don't know if he can guard three's or fours. He'll certainly be an NBA player and a good one, but his ceiling could be a back-up type guy.

These less-than-optimistic projections may all be true, but there are a couple key factors to remind you that the sky isn't falling.

Firstly, McDermott won't make mental errors defensively and he won't be caught out of position away from the ball. This may seem like only a small consolation, but it will go a long way for him to hold his own.

Second, it's important to remember that his defensive mediocrity won't damage his draft stock or drastically affect his long-term value. His NBA appeal begins with his prolific scoring ability, so coaches will be able to live with a certain amount of defensive ineptitude.


Draft-Day Projections and Career Outlook

I don't foresee McDermott wowing anyone or exceeding expectations at the draft combine, so NBA GMs will judge him largely on his body of work at Creighton and applicable skills.

Mar 8, 2014; Omaha, NE, USA; Creighton Bluejays forward Doug McDermott (3) guards Providence Friars guard Bryce Cotton (11) during their NCAA basketball game at the CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

With his elite shooting ability and craftiness as a scorer, McDermott's value may be high enough to crack the top 10 on draft night. He won't go any higher than 10th or ninth, but that's still extremely impressive for someone who spent most of his career in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Once he reaches the NBA hardwood, his offensive talent will earn him a substantial chunk of minutes. Depending on the team and circumstance, he could see 20-25 minutes, even as a rookie.

Defensively, he's going to give up some points when athletic players square up against him. Fortunately, he's worth it on the offensive end, because he'll stretch opponents and fill up the hoop whenever they give him daylight.

McBuckets' game definitely translates to the NBA. Maybe not to stardom, but he'll leave his mark on the league.


Dan O'Brien covers the NBA draft for Bleacher Report.

Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR


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