Doug McDermott is getting back to his roots, and getting buckets.
Doug McDermott‘s rookie season was not one to remember. He only played in 36 games due to knee surgery, and when he did play it wasn’t pretty. He posted nightly averages of 3.0 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.2 assists on shooting splits of .402/.317/.667.
These struggles weren’t exactly expected for McDermott considering the success he had at Creighton, where he scored 3,150 points over his four-year career and won the National Player of The Year award as a senior. For someone who was such a proven offensive mastermind during his college days — earning the nickname “Dougie McBuckets” — and came into the league at the ripe old age of 23, it seemed as though he would make a smooth, quick transition into an NBA contributor.
In the first half of this season, McDermott seemed to take his first real step towards becoming a contributor, and showed marked improvement over his rookie campaign. He averaged 8.3 points and 2.3 rebounds on 43.5 percent shooting from the field and 42.4 percent from three before the All-Star break.
But, since the All-Star break, McDermott has been on a whole other level. He’s received more playing time, as his minutes have jumped from 22.4 to 26.3 per night, and he’s responded.
So far in the latter half of the season, McDermott has averaged 13.6 points per game on shooting splits of .493/.404/.857, including a seven game stretch in which he didn’t drop below double figure scoring and averaged 17.1 points per game. He has increased his true shooting percentage from 54.1 percent before the break to 59.7 percent since. This big bump in efficiency has come despite his usage percentage increasing from 16.5 percent to 19.8 percent.
McDermott’s three-point percentage has actually slipped slightly since the All-Star break, but he has made up for it by shooting much better from inside the arc. Take a look at his shot charts from before and after the break.
His percentages have improved significantly from every area within the three-point line. This is a very positive sign as his biggest area of concern offensively was his inefficiency in the mid-range and at the rim.
McDermott is still not — and may never be — a player who can create many of his own offensive opportunities, as 76.1 percent of his two-point field goals and 98.9 percent of his three-pointers have been assisted this season. However, he has shown the ability to score in a variety of ways that he showcased in college.
McDermott scores 1.10 points per possession on spot-up attempts, good for 70th in the league and placing him in the 82.3 percentile. He also scores 1.07 points per possession on post ups, a very impressive 14th in the NBA and putting him in the 93.7 percentile. Those numbers put him in pretty elite company, joining Rodney Hood, Kawhi Leonard, Jeff Teague, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and Joe Johnson as the only players to be in the 82nd percentile or better in PPP on both post-ups and spot-ups.
This versatility makes McDermott a valuable and rare offensive weapon as a player who can both stretch the floor and take advantage of size mismatches in the post.
McDermott does not provide much else besides a scoring punch. He’s not much of a playmaker (averaging 0.6 assists to 0.7 turnovers per game), and his limited athleticism means he’s rather ineffective as a rebounder (2.4 per game) and defender.
Defense in particular has been a difficult transition for McDermott as a pro. He’s often targeted by opposing teams, and has a defensive rating per 100 possessions of 110. This number has even ballooned to 114 since the All-Star break, though he has made up for it by increasing his offensive rating from 101 to 115.
Still, McDermott needs to become more effective on the defensive end of the floor. He’s 416th in the NBA with a defensive box plus/minus of -2.5. Perhaps nothing sums up his defensive incapabilities better than this tweet:
McDermott is averaging significantly less steals and blocks per-36 minutes than anyone since 1979-1980. So it’s safe to say he has flaws that he could improve on, and he should with time.
But defense isn’t what we’re here for. We all know McDermott is here to do one thing and one thing only: get buckets. It’s what he’s always done. Not only that, but his offense has been good for the Bulls, as they’re 17-13 when McDermott reaches double digits, and 16-19 when he doesn’t.
Many of the college stars who reach celestial status due to their scoring ability never recapture that magic as a pro (*cough cough* Jimmer). McDermott won’t ever average 26.7 points per game as he did his senior year, but for now it appears he’s coming into his own as a scorer in the pros. Much like Scott Van Pelt, he’s beginning to figure it out.
McBuckets is back, and we’re all better for it.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com
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