If the NBA Summer League proved anything to the Chicago Bulls over the past week, it’s that Doug McDermott was the right decision on draft day. McDermott had a sensational week in Las Vegas, and proved that he is much more than just a shooter. He is a gritty, competitive player.
In the four games he saw action in, he averaged 18 points on 44 percent shooting (won all four games) and made 22-of-23 free throws. He was held out for the team’s fifth game due to a nagging foot/ankle injury, in which the Bulls were blown out by the Sacramento Kings. Watching the Summer League squad without McDermott on the court was eye-opening to just how much he does off the ball on the offensive end. His ability to space the floor and force the defense to account for his range makes a huge difference in what the Bulls could do on the offensive end of the court.
It should also be mentioned that every time McDermott put up a shot, you could hear and feel the crowd’s excitement. Every crowd in Las Vegas loved this kid; I can’t imagine how Chicago fans will react when he hits the court for the first time this season.
Even with all the hype and offensive ability, McDermott should not start for the Bulls to begin the season. Being productive in the Summer League is wonderful, but it’s at another level entirely once the season kicks off. The Bulls need to see how successful he is at defending at the wing position against some of the most perennial scorers in the game today (remember – defense gets a player court time in coach Tom Thibodeau’s system).
McDermott will be in direct competition with fellow Summer League standout Tony Snell, who averaged 20 PPG through five games, and showcased a much-improved array of offensive skills and shots. With both players comparable in size, it may come down to matchups and in-game situations that decides who garners more playing time than the other.
I would assume Mike Dunleavy Jr. would get the initial starting role to begin the season, with the thought that either McDermott or Snell will take over by mid-season at the latest. The Bulls rode Dunleavy hard last season due to injuries and the mid-season Luol Deng trade. He had some big games last season for the team, but is better suited at this point in his career to be a nice role player off the bench.
With a likely starting lineup featuring Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler this season, the Bulls will need a shooter to help spread the floor, and give Rose room to operate in the paint. That lineup is a perfect fit for McDermott. He won’t have to do too much offensively that is out of his comfort zone, and there is enough speed, height and athleticism on the court defensively to cover up any blunders a rookie is expected to make.
McDermott certainly has a lot of work to do to break the starting lineup on a NBA title contender in his rookie season, but he has the skill set and shooting ability to grab that spot at some point during the 2014-15 season.