Chicago Bulls: 5 Reasons Doug McDermott Should Start at Small Forward
Lately, there's talk circulating that the Chicago Bulls should start Doug McDermott, their 22-year-old sharpshooting rookie, this upcoming season. Sam Smith of NBA.com discussed the topic in-depth in a recent article.
Normally, rookies who play for head coach Tom Thibodeau would be lucky to be in the regular rotation, let alone starting, but there are several reasons for the sometimes robotic and stubborn coach to make an exception for McDermott.
In case you need one reason McDermott should get the call to start from day one in his tenure with the Bulls, we've got five for you.
The Bulls Traded 2 1st-Round Picks for This Guy
In most cases, a team doesn't trade two first-round selections to get into position to draft or acquire a player it plans on bringing off the bench.
The Bulls parted with the 16th and 19th picks—which turned into promising youngsters Gary Harris from Michigan State and Jusuf Nurkic from Bosnia—to land the Denver Nuggets' 11th pick.
Chicago obviously wanted an experienced, smart and level-headed shooter to help an offense that ranked dead last in points per game last season. McDermott qualifies.
With determination that isn't usually associated with the Bulls front office, the team identified their man in the draft and did what was necessary to bring him in. With so much effort and sacrifice put forth by the organization, you can bet the Bulls have big plans for McDermott.
He Can Really Shoot It
There are good shooters, and then there are guys like McDermott who have the potential to be one of the best pure shooters in the NBA.
Don't take my word for it. Listen to a guy who knows a thing or two about shooting the basketball, and doing it in Thibodeau's offense. Here's what former Bull and Creighton Blue Jay Kyle Korver had to say about McDermott after Team USA practice.
Per Smith, Korver said:
I think he’s really good. He’s got the right temperament and mindset; he’s not going to get down when things don’t go his way, gets pulled out. Has the right head for that situation. He’s got great balance to his shot. He’s got great technique and form. He’s always on balance. To be a great, consistent shooter you have to be sound. His legs are sound under his shot. He’s got a form that can endure. I’ve been really impressed with his shooting. I knew he was a good shooter. I didn’t know he was as good a shooter as he’s shown.
In college, McDermott never made less than 40 percent from three-point range in a season. He made 45 percent of his long-distance connections as a senior.
That skill set is one desperately needed for the Bulls offense, and especially the starting lineup. Derrick Rose is a great all-around player, but he's still not exactly a deadly long-range shooter. He'll also have the ball in his hands most of the time attempting to create for himself and teammates.
McDermott could stand to benefit greatly from Rose's penetration.
Jimmy Butler figures to start at shooting guard, but he saw his three-point percentage dip to just 28 percent last season. He can't be depended on to spread the floor for Rose and Pau Gasol.
While veteran Mike Dunleavy Jr.—who many expect to start—did knock down 38 percent of his threes last season, he doesn't offer as many facets to his scoring repertoire as McDermott.
Per ESPN.com's Jon Greenberg, Bulls general manager Gar Forman calls McDermott "crafty" and says he has the ability to create shots "off the bounce" and slip inside to the post.
“If you’re just viewing him strictly as a shooter, you’re not casting him in the proper light. Because he’s a lot more than that. We think he’s a complete player."
The praise and support are awesome, and they're all the more reason McDermott should be starting from the very first preseason game.
The Bulls Can Hide Him Defensively
McDermott can shoot it, but he'll have some growing pains as a defender. He's not the best athlete and it'll take some time to get used to checking NBA-caliber wings on a nightly basis.
That said, the Bulls have the coach in Thibs and the defensive stalwarts in Joakim Noah, Butler and Taj Gibson to keep the rookie from falling flat.
Noah is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. and Butler was Second Team All-Defense last year as well. Off the bench, Gibson—the runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year last season—hangs his hard hat and lunch pail on his defense as well.
As long as McDermott gives the effort on that end of the floor, the Bulls would be alright with him in the game during crucial stretches.
He's Not a Normal Rookie
For starters, McDermott almost got Thibs to smile in a picture. That's quite an accomplishment for a rookie.
After four years of college and playing for his dad at Creighton, McDermott has become a student of the game. His basketball IQ is likely as high as any rookie heading into the league this year.
He'll grasp things quickly.
McDermott also possesses the maturity to handle what could be a high-pressure rookie season in Chicago, where expectations are sky high.
He is participating in the Team USA practices as a member of the Select Team and picking up valuable nuances and lessons as he prepares for his first season.
Per Smith, McDermott said:
This year I’m doing a better job rebounding and defending. Maybe not getting as many open looks as last year, but I am making the most of them, making better reads off screens, trying to improve in different areas. Not just shooting. Whether I’m getting the shot or not, I’m getting a lot of attention on the screens because guys view me as a shooter. It leaves open areas for other guys.
It's that type of comprehension and patience that makes McDermott different from most first-year players.
The Bench Doesn't Need Him
With another prized and experienced rookie coming to town in 23-year-old Nikola Mirotic, as well as scoring point guard Aaron Brooks and Gibson, the new Bench Mob has enough scoring to be a dangerous second unit.
If anything, Thibs might be more inclined to move Dunleavy Jr. to the bench to strengthen the unit's overall defense.
The reserves don't have the players to make McDermott's expected issues on defense less of a concern. Last season, Dunleavy was among the league leaders in defensive win shares with 4.1 on the season.
That's partially due to playing with players like Noah, Gibson and Butler, but the versatile Dunleavy Jr. more than held his own on the defensive end as well.
McDermott's presence as a reserve would likely take opportunities from Mirotic, who also needs room to spread his wings—and the floor—so he can become the valuable asset the Bulls expect him to be.
That's as compelling a case to start McDermott as any you'll find. We'll see if Thibs sees it the same way in a few months.
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