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Rookie McDermott lighting up Las Vegas
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jul 14
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The NBA draft overall has not been particularly kind to the Bulls.
Sure, it did help them to all their six championships with the drafting of Michael Jordan in 1984. And it did produce the only other MVP in franchise history with Derrick Rose in 2008. There was a big one with Scottie Pippen in 1987 and later residuals from 1971’s Artis Gilmore after his stint in the ABA. But not much of a long list since 1966 other than the likes of Elton Brand, Toni Kukoc, Joakim Noah, Horace Grant, Charles Oakley, Luol Deng, Tom Boerwinkle and Reggie Theus being the most prominent.
But the Bulls may have scored big in the 2014 draft as first round pick Doug McDermott Sunday scored 31 points with five of nine three-pointers in the Bulls’ 103-76 summer league victory to go to 2-0. The next game is Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. CT against Minnesota.
“I was so excited for my first game, a little uptight,” admitted McDermott about his 10 points on two of eight shooting Saturday. “Today, it slowed down. It felt like basketball. Back to normal.”
It would be a heck of a new normal if McDermott were able to continue anything like Sunday’s play with as pure a shooting stroke as the Bulls have seen. Consider that the leading three-point shooters in attempts in franchise history are Kirk Hinrich and Pippen. The leaders in makes are Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Pippen, Jordan and Steve Kerr. Among the next five on the list, the best shooter probably is Kukoc. Kerr is one of the best three-point percentage leaders in league history, though more a situation shooter with a limited amount of attempts. With his easy stroke and seemingly effortless shooting range, McDermott could become a prized long distance shooter and draft steal.
The Bulls last month used their own pick and the one they acquired from trading 2006 draft bust Tyrus Thomas to move up in the draft and obtain McDermott in a trade with Denver, Sunday’s opponent. Had the Bulls not been able to exchange picks with the Nuggets, the Bulls were believed leaning toward selecting Michigan State’s Gary Harris. He was one of 12 shooting in Sunday’s game, mostly defended by Tony Snell, who had another strong shooting game as well.
Snell after 27 points on 10 of 14 shooting Saturday had 23 points with five of 12 threes in Game 2. After an efficient start, Snell got caught up a bit in the fourth quarter in forcing shots and over dribbling, finishing nine of 22. But he added four assists with some nice ball handling out of the backcourt and drive and kick passes to McDermott.
“We ran that down screen action that was giving them some trouble,” explained McDermott. “Whenever you have two shooters like that with Tony, it’s tough to guard. Coming off screens, playing off each other, the spacing was huge. I watched a lot of film last night with coach (Andy) Greer. The spacing was awful. Tonight I was able to get a lot better looks because I was in the right spots.”
And the Bulls may just have gotten into the right spot in this past draft.
Yes, it’s the Las Vegas summer league at UNLV and many of the opponents won’t be playing in the NBA next season. But shooting is shooting. No matter the quality of the defender, if you can make a shot the basket is the same size in the NBA.
McDermott’s shot is smooth and true and looks like it’s going in every time he shoots it. It’s going to give Snell, for one, a lot of exercise as Snell is fond of leaping off the bench with arms raised whenever a teammate attempts and makes a three. It hasn’t been a frequent occurrence since Ben Gordon left. McDermott is seven of 14 on threes in the two games. And as important, McDermott is showing more game. He attacked the basket well Sunday after a more tentative outing in the first game and shot a dozen free throws. He is 16 of 17 from the line in the two games. And that’s with debut jitters.
“I feel shooting is my biggest strength right now,” acknowledged McDermott. “I’m trying to add things to my game every day. I feel I’m a lot more than a shooter. I feel I’m a complete player. Having a coach like Tom Thibodeau is only going to help me. The (NBA) game is more physical. I’m going to have to be more creative in how I get position. Coming off screens initially is going to help me the most.”
McDermott Sunday played with the poise of a seasoned pro the way he faced up for his shots, spaced away from Snell for openings, took the ball hard and finished stronger when identifying a mismatch with a smaller player as well as going into the post. He drew three free throws on a shot, pump faked to draw a fly by defender for a three and even added a slam dunk on a fast break with Snell. McDermott isn’t fast on defense, but he did a good job not getting beat off the dribble and staying in front.
This was all after a 9-0 Denver start against some pressure the Bulls didn’t handle well early. But in what the Bulls hope will be an added identity, they battled back quickly behind three-point shooting (19 of 36 Sunday and 28 of 52 in the two games) to lead 32-24 after one quarter.
That kind of threat is vital for the Bulls this season to be able to open up the inside for their enhanced roster of big men with the addition of Pau Gasol. Shooting and scoring were among the main offseason needs for the Bulls. They’ll get Derrick Rose back. But McDermott and Snell being able to shoot like they have will be vital in giving Thibodeau potentially more playing options and better spacing for Rose and Gasol.
The Bulls also got another rugged game from second round pick Cameron Bairstow, who showed alert play in weak side help. Reserve guard Billy Baron had another good effort with a team-high six assists in just under 16 minutes.
Snell was strong taking a hit on a drive in the second quarter and finishing as the Bulls led 52-42 at halftime. Snell later took a missed Denver dunk and dribbled full court to find McDermott running the wing for a slam dunk, his first as a pro. Snell continued to impress with the ball, even dribbling behind his back to avoid pressure on one occasion. Though he got caught up late holding the ball too much with a series of between the legs dribbles that probably didn’t do much for Thibodeau’s blood pressure as he sat courtside. But Snell also showed more verve in running the team and verbally leaning on teammates during the game to push harder.
Though most impressive was the way McDermott scored almost an “easy” 31 points in 27 minutes with a game that should translate well to the pros by playing with someone who draws defenses like Rose.
“I felt way more comfortable,” said McDermott. “After I hit that first face up jumper things opened up and I felt better with my post game. Much more confident.”
Likely for the Bulls as well compared to the days of top picks like Howard Porter, Corie Blount, Scott May, Quintin Dailey and Marcus Fizer.