Predicting Doug McDermott's Role with Chicago Bulls Next Season

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Predicting Doug McDermott's Role with Chicago Bulls Next Season
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls drafted Doug McDermott for one reason above all others: they needed offense.

McDermott was the most prolific scorer in all of the NCAA last year, averaging 26.9 points per game and amassing 3,150 points in his four years at Creighton University. That’s good for fifth all time in Division I ball. And he got his buckets a variety of ways.

A scary-good jump-shooter, McDermott also got points driving, posting up and by making clever cuts off the ball. 

How much of his prowess translates to the NBA is a mystery at this point. McDermott should be able to make open shots if Chicago's offense can manufacture them for him, and with any luck he’ll stretch defenses in a way no Bulls reserve could last year. Chicago ranked dead last in points per game during 2013-14, putting up a measly 93.7 on average.

The Bulls can use whatever scoring help "Dougie McBuckets” is able to offer. But he’ll be at a disadvantage in terms of speed and athleticism. His shooting eye, his touch closer to the rim and his cerebral approach to reading defenses will have to make up for what he’s lacking physically—and in a big way.

McDermott faces a steep learning curve as he moves into his professional career. Longer, faster, higher-jumping athletes await his arrival. He won't have the first step he did in the Big East, and his tricky movements in the post won't go as far against big men agile enough to recover.

Defining McBuckets as either a wing, guard or big man is a slippery slope. The more complex positional truth at hand is that on defense, McDermott will guard the opposition’s least productive offensive player—his lack of lateral mobility and his huge ground to make up in learning Tom Thibodeau’s strong-side system basically ensure this. Luckily for the Bulls, they've got Jimmy Butler to put next to McDermott on the wing and Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah to put behind him—there'll be a huge defensive safety net in place to hide McDermott's inevitable struggles.

On offense, he’ll eventually be asked to perform at a variety of spots, but at first he'll probably just be a shooter.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Expect the Bulls to implement McDermott as a pure thee-point specialist early on, training him to siphon shots from the misdirection created by Derrick Rose’s speed moving toward the rim. 

"Doug didn't get many open shots in college," Greg McDermott, Doug’s father and head coach at Creighton, told reporters (via Sean Highkin of Sports on Earth) at McDermott’s introductory press conference in Deerfield, Illinois.

He had to work for everything he got and a lot of his three-point shots were, he'd catch it and it'd have to be gone because he didn't have much space. I think Derrick's ability to create things off the dribble and create things for his teammates is going to allow Doug to get some open shots. And when he gets open shots, more often than not he's gonna knock them down.

Sam Forencich/Getty Images

So while McDermott will be facing stronger defenses than he’s ever seen, he’ll also be working alongside greater teammates than he could have ever previously imagined. And as the season wears on, the Bulls will hope that McDermott can blossom into a playmaker himself—someone who creates opportunities, as opposed to just capitalizing on them.

Just how much is asked of McDermott will depend on how the Bulls ultimately fare in free agency. Carmelo Anthony’s decision is still not made, but optimism on that front is waning in Chicago. The team is finally negotiating with Spanish League forward Nikola Mirotic, but his inexperience in the NBA might put him in a similar spot to McDermott. Both players are diverse scorers who can be stud role men if used right, but both will have to be implemented very specifically in their first season. This will be a big tactical challenge for Chicago.

Unless the Bulls bring in some serious, battle-tested scoring help on the wing, McDermott might face some tall tasks right away. When Rose went down with a torn lateral meniscus last season and Luol Deng was traded, Mike Dunleavy suddenly became a primary scoring option for Chicago. That’s how short on offensive options they were. Barring some serious developments this summer, it’s safe to fear that McDermott will have to handle a disproportionate amount of rookie scoring duties.

Ned Dishman/Getty Images

McDermott was the closest thing to a guaranteed pro scorer (beyond No. 2 pick Jabari Parker) in this year’s draft. That’s why the Bulls moved their No. 16 and No. 19 overall picks to the Denver Nuggets to get McDermott at No. 11—they’re interested in winning now, and they think McDermott can score for them right away. From Grantland’s Brett Korememos:

McDermott [isn’t] a lock for… lofty heights, but with such a large sample size of success behind him, there’s very little to suggest he won’t enter the league and become an instant threat from outside…  I saw enough signs to point to a more specialized role for McDermott in the NBA.

As long as the Bulls can get help in front of McDermott and manage his role well, he should be a hit in Chicago as a secondary scoring option. He may even develop into a more dynamic scorer at some point in his career, but it’s no sure thing, and it could be dangerous to rush his development into one.

Here's to hoping the Bulls can buttress the rest of their offensive options and put McBuckets into spots where he just needs to shoot in 2014-15. That way, everyone’s a winner.

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