Very rarely are prospects head and shoulders above their peers in any one area, but when it comes to Creighton forward Doug McDermott, he's unquestionably the best shooter in the draft. Put everything else aside, like the concerns of his size, length, projected position: He's a deadeye marksman.
By moving the 16th and 19th picks as well as a 2015 second-round choice for McDermott and Anthony Randolph, the Chicago Bulls are betting that McDermott's sweet stroke is going to carry him to success in the league.
Is it that simple for Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls? Draft a great shooter and reap the rewards? It might be. Chicago was 26th in three-pointers made and 24th in three-point percentage, so McDermott's skills are certainly a huge need. Demand, meet supply.
There are good shooters, and there are great shooters. McDermott is the latter. The mid-major star shot over 40 percent from behind the arc in all four of his seasons, which is incredible in its own right. McDermott wasn't just one of the most efficient and prolific scorers in this year's draft class; he was one of the best ever. Just look at this shot chart via ShotAnalytics.com:
McDermott's shot chart last year. Pick-and-pops, pin-downs -- whatever -- get him open and get him the ball. pic.twitter.com/ut2PQ4JzCM— D.J. Foster (@fosterdj) June 27, 2014
There's an old saying in basketball, and it goes like this: If you can shoot, you can play. Perhaps that makes McDermott an interesting trade piece, as just about any team would be happy to have him in some capacity. There's a reason why Chicago felt compelled to move up in the draft to take him, after all. He probably wasn't going to last long.
When you consider the Bulls could be in the running for Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Love, compiling assets to acquire a trade piece who will appeal to multiple teams makes plenty of sense. The Bulls lack exciting young players, and shooting is one of those skills a team can never really get enough of.
If the Bulls were able to get Anthony without having to negotiate a sign-and-trade or not including McDermott, he'll certainly fit with Melo nicely.
Although McDermott is a classic tweener who is stuck between the 3 and the 4, surrounding an all-around scorer who attracts so much defensive attention like Anthony does with shooters has proven to be a tried-and-true offensive strategy. There's a reason why the Knicks set records for most three-pointers attempted in a season with Anthony.
Even if Anthony re-signs with New York or goes elsewhere, McDermott still fits in Chicago brilliantly. Joakim Noah can protect him defensively and find him when he's open away from the ball. Defensively, although he's limited on an individual basis, McDermott is smart enough to be a part of a system.
Remember, we've seen below-average defenders suddenly become useful and a member of an elite defense under Thibodeau in the past. It's not like Marco Belinelli was a good perimeter defender, but Chicago compensated for that and still stifled opponents.
The learning curve is steep for rookies, especially under Thibodeau, but worst-case scenario, McDermott can be a specialist off the bench at worst right away just because of his scoring ability.
Tyler Lashbrook at SB Nation summed up McDermott pretty well:
McDermott is a spectacular shooter and he can do it in a number of ways: Off pin-downs, flair screens, with the ball in his hands, hand offs, spotting up, etc. He's also developed a few nuances that help him get his shot off against more athletic defenders.
But he isn't going to be even an average one-on-one defender in the NBA against either forward position. He doesn't have the size or length to defend power forwards and he doesn't have the lateral quickness to stay in front of wings. He is, however, a smart team defender and you can afford to hide him on the opposing team's worst offensive player in certain lineups.
Essentially, Chicago can mitigate McDermott's biggest weaknesses (defense, athleticism) with its conservative defensive system and personnel. Offensively, the Bulls have been squeezing the pulp out of their talent for years with plenty of off-ball screens and clearly designed plays to free up shooters for spot-up looks.
Besides, there's a precedent here. Kyle Korver, a fellow Creighton grad, thrived in Chicago off the bench in a role you can picture McDermott slotting into right away. Mike Dunleavy, who is still on the roster but could now conceivably be a trade asset, benefited from many of the same opportunities Korver did.
Point being, there's little question to how McDermott will slot in with the Bulls. That should help the transition from being the top dog in college to taking a lesser role and playing against weaker competition.
Villanova coach Jay Wright told NBA.com what he thinks about McDermott making the jump from college to the pros:
I have a unique perspective. I was with the USA team last summer when he played with developmental team against the pros. And he played very well. Sometimes you watch a guy in college and you think how is that going to transfer to the NBA. But I saw it, and everything he does here in college, he did this summer with those guys.
A lot is unsettled for the Bulls, but McDermott will help provide shooting and efficient scoring, especially if he's allowed to be even more selective with his looks, which seems likely. The Bulls annually sport a below-average offense, so getting the best offensive player in college seems pretty logical.
Stars like Derrick Rose or Anthony need players they can trust with the ball to hit shots, and in that regard, there might not have been a better fit in the draft for Chicago than McDermott. Thibodeau and the Bulls will use his strengths and hide his weaknesses, and they should ultimately turn him into the kind of valuable role player every elite team needs.