With the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft, the Los Angeles Lakers have a rare opportunity to pick an immediate impact player. Not surprisingly, the prospects getting the most hype are primarily one-and-done athletes—an exception being Creighton University senior Doug McDermott.
As the nation’s leading college scorer as well as winner of this year’s John R. Wooden and Naismith awards, McDermott presents a case for consideration.
But will the Lakers opt for youth, athleticism and the often-exaggerated promise of limitless upside rather than choosing the path of practicality?
Being a four-year man is usually seen as a liability when it comes to the draft lottery. An older athlete is assumed to have a reduced shelf life as well as the stigma of being considered a finished product without the room to develop in the NBA.
Beth Harris for AP’s The Big Story covered the Wooden presentation in April, relaying McDermott’s remarks about his college experience: “I never got satisfied. I stuck it out for four years. That's why it's so great seeing other seniors be here with me. We're guys who decided to get better every year.”
For L.A., looking to accelerate through an almost total rebuild, experience could have its advantages. The son of Creighton coach Greg McDermott, the 6’8” forward offers the kind of maturity and leadership that will be crucial in coming years, with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash now in the twilight of their brilliant careers.
It also doesn’t hurt that McDermott can flat-out shoot the ball, averaging 26.7 points per game this season and a remarkably consistent 21.7 over his college career. And for all the potential that younger players bring, being able to get a shot off under NBA pressure is something that is valuable sooner rather than later.
During an interview with Brian Hamilton for Sports Illustrated’s One and One, McDermott spoke about the quicker shot release that he debuted during his senior year:
I was starting to become more of a focal point for defenses, and you don’t have all day to get into your shot and mess around. Usually another guy is coming right at you. I really worked on my release, getting it quicker. Watching film of certain guys in the NBA – guys like Ray Allen, how quick they get it off, even Kyle Korver, who comes off screens and makes a decision before it’s even in his hands.
Playing all four years also meant joining an elite fraternity—McDermott is one of only eight players in NCAA Division I history to crack the 3,000 club, accumulating 3,150 points during his time at Creighton.
Does all this mean there’s no room for development once he hits the NBA? Not at all. That’s another of basketball’s myths—no different from assuming that any athlete stops improving simply based on time.
Imagine if Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had hit his apex during his four years at UCLA, or if Michael Jordan, after three years at North Carolina and a rookie season with the Chicago Bulls, had simply ceased to evolve.
And has Kobe Bryant ever stopped working on his game?
Nobody’s saying McDermott belongs to that kind of rarefied air. But you also won’t find many members of this year’s draft class with such a pragmatic attitude toward what it will take to adjust to the Association.
On Wednesday, June 4, the Lakers hosted a predraft workout at their El Segundo, California, practice facility. McDermott was one of 12 hopefuls being put through measurements, interviews, drills and scrimmages under the watchful eyes of general manager Mitch Kupchak and other assorted team personnel.
During the media scrum, per Lakers.com, McDermott spoke about his need to improve on ball-handling and lateral quickness. Asked about his role as a power forward in college and whether he could also play the small forward position in the NBA, he responded:
In the NBA, I have to get a lot bigger. I'm not going to grow anymore so I definitely have to hit the weight room hard. That will allow me to guard a four at times. In college I guarded a lot of strong guys. I think I can adjust once I get a little stronger, but as of now, I'm going to have to guard a three and possibly some twos and I think I can do it.
Is McDermott a better prospect than others who may be available at the No. 7 slot? That’s certainly debatable. The range of possibilities include tough point guard Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh with his 7’4” wingspan and Aaron Gordon, who can both defend and play above the rim.
But don’t forget maturity, leadership and court vision. And most of all, the ability to shoot the lights out. In today’s NBA, teams simply won’t prosper without long-distance gunners.
And McDermott’s accuracy is off the charts—he had a collegiate career average of .458 from three-point land.
It’s also worth noting that Kupchak has expressed interest in adding to the team’s current draft pick—either by moving it for multiple selections, buying an additional bite at the apple or even trading a future pick for a current one.
On the night of June 26, one of college’s all-time great shooters will be up for grabs. Doug McDermott will be a practical choice for somebody.