Doug McDermott out to prove he’s more complete than you think

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NEW YORK – When you’re given the nickname Dougie McBuckets, it’s no secret that your specialty is putting the basketball where its intended destination is, even if your NBA team changes within a 10 minute time span.

Doug McDermott wound up in potentially the best possible spot for him thanks to the Chicago Bulls, who gave up their two first round picks (16 and 19) to Denver for McDermott after selecting him with the 11th overall pick. The Bulls needed to find someone who could come in and score right away to take some of the burden off of a returning Derrick Rose.

During his senior year campaign at Creighton, McDermott led the nation in scoring (26.7 ppg) and did it in a variety of ways. He made 57 percent of his two point shots, 45 percent of his three point shots (while taking six per game) and made 86 percent of his free throws. This wasn’t just a one year explosion; McDermott’s scoring average went up during each of his four years in college. Wait college basketball players are actually allowed to go to school for four years and graduate with a degree!?

It was apparent during his final two seasons that he had a skill that could transfer over to the NBA, but the biggest question mark around McDermott is his ability to improve the rest of his game, especially his defense, into an acceptable level in the NBA. McBuckets knows what has to be done.

“Defensively I have to get a lot better and be able to prove that I can guard some of those positions that’s the main thing,” he said on Wednesday during the pre-draft media availability. “I know I can score, I know I can shoot, I know I can move without the ball, but you know the main thing is on the defensive end.”

He’s worked on more than just his defense and it sounds as though McDermott has been working on improving every aspect of his offensive game since his college career wrapped up, but perhaps nothing more so than his ability to control his own offense.

“Ball handling a lot just because there is a lot of space in the NBA and the more you can create for yourself, the more successful you’re going to be.”

McDermott also understands that the transition into the NBA isn’t just going to be about evolving his physical abilities, changing his mental approach to life as a member of the NBA is just as important.

“You know it’s different, I’ve been in college for four years, so all of a sudden I’m going to have all of this free time, so I’m going to be in the gym a lot more than I was. Obviously I’m going to be getting paid money to do it now, so it’s a job,” McDermott said. “You gotta take it real serious because there are a lot of good players in this world that can come up at the next level and take your job at some point.”

But what job would a player be taking? McDermott’s skill set lends itself perfectly to that of a small-ball four, which would likely be his calling card if he were two inches taller (he’s currently listed at 6’8”). If he plays the three, he’s going to have to guard the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

So what position does McDermott think he’ll be at the next level?

“A three, I think I’ll play the three at the next level. In college I played the four for the most part just because we were pretty small, but we switched one through four sometimes one through five, so I’ve guarded a lot of wings during my four years,” he said.

Could he be a small-ball four?

“I think so. I think you’ve seen more stretch fours who aren’t quite as tall, so you know I think I could help there. Certainly once I am established in the league and maybe put on some more weight and bulk I could potentially guard fours too.”

The toughest transition for Dougie McBuckets is going to be bursting through the sticker that says “Hello, I’m a shooter and I can’t do anything else”. It’s a label that has doomed many before McDermott (HI JIMMER!), but it’s also one that he recognizes. It’s something that has driven him during the time between the end of his college career and the draft.

“A lot of people label me as just a spot up shooter, but I think that I’m a lot more than that. I feel like I can put the ball on the floor and come off of screens really well, so I’ve been working on that a lot.”

Welcome to the windy city Mr. McBuckets.

Twitter: @Scottdargis 

Dwight Howard’s offensive rebounding defies convention

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Hawks president/coach Mike Budenholzer has the authority to set the Hawks’ priorities.

“Organizationally, fundamentally,” Budenholzer said, “transition D is more important than anything.”

Dwight Howard challenges that daily.

Howard has already built a Hall of Fame résumé:

  • Eight-time All-NBA center, including five-time first teamer
  • Three-time Defensive Player of the Year
  • Five-time rebounding champ

But the big man is doing something he’s never done before: Grab 15.2% of available offensive rebounds.

And he’s doing it at age 31 in a league that has increasingly deemphasized offensive rebounding. The NBA will set a record this season for lowest offensive-rebounding percentage for the fourth straight year.

Teams have just figured getting back on defense trumps crashing the offensive glass, the strategy emanating most prominently from the Spurs. Budenholzer, a former San Antonio assistant coach, brought the plan straight to Atlanta. The Hawks ranked 28th, last and last in offensive-rebounding in his first three seasons — in part for philosophical reasons, in part because they’ve lacked the personnel to do better. They’ve also been a below-average defensive-rebounding team each season under Budenholzer.

Then Howard signed and forced Budenholzer to adjust.

Atlanta has become an above-average offensive-rebounding team and far better with Howard on the court – a helpful crutch with ace 3-point shooters Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague traded. The Hawks are ceding more transition opportunities, though they remain very good at defending those.

It’s an obvious tradeoff, says Stan Van Gundy. The Pistons coach who coached Howard with the Magic sees the center in the rare class of players who deserve full autonomy to chase offensive rebounds.

“You don’t limit those guys,” Van Gundy said.

Howard has made the most of his freedom to chase rebounds. His 15.2 offensive-rebounding percentage ranks second to only Kenneth Faried among qualified players.

And, again, Howard is 31. Offensive rebounding tends to be a young man’s game.

Here’s top 10 in offensive rebounding this season, plotted by age:

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Player Team Age Offensive-rebounding percentage
Kenneth Faried DEN 27 16.1
Dwight Howard ATL 31 15.4
Andre Drummond DET 23 15.2
JaVale McGee GSW 29 15
Tarik Black LAL 25 14.8
Tristan Thompson CLE 25 14
Rudy Gobert UTA 24 13.9
Enes Kanter OKC 24 13.9
Kyle O'Quinn NYK 26 13.9
Willy Hernangomez NYK 22 13.8

Howard’s previous career-high offensive-rebounding percentage was 13.8.

The only other players to set career-high offensive-rebounding rates north of 15% after their age-30 season: Dennis Rodman (20.8% at age 33 with the 1994-95 Spurs) and Alan Henderson (15.6% at age 32 with the 2004-05 Mavericks). Both Rodman (Cooke County Junior College and Southeastern Oklahoma State) and Henderson (Indiana) played four years of college basketball, giving them less wear and tear on their bodies and fewer opportunities to post career highs at a young age.

Howard jumped to the NBA straight from high school.

Yet, he’s having a resurgent year in his 13th season. How is he doing it?

“One, I’m not super old,” Howard said earlier this season. “Two, my body feels great. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff to take care of my body.”

Known for eating legendary amounts of candy earlier in his career, perhaps Howard has made a breakthrough. His defensive-rebounding percentage (31.8) is the second-best of his career and ranks fourth in the NBA. That has helped him anchor the league’s fourth-best defense.

Howard has been subject to widespread criticism, and last season with the Rockets was a low point. This year, Howard has recommitted to the basics: Rebounding, defending, scoring inside.

“He’s got a big personality, but I think we all knew that,” Budenholzer said. “But it’s all in the right place. He wants good things, and I’ve really enjoyed coaching him.”

So much so that Budenholzer has compromised a core basketball tenet for Howard.

And it has proved a worthwhile decision.

JaVale McGee misses open dunk (video)

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Shaquille O’Neal said he’d stop talking about JaVale McGee, who has featured prominently on Shaqtin A Fool.

This missed dunk, a low point in the Warriors’ otherwise-impressive win over the Spurs, will test Shaq’s sincerity.

Grizzlies’ James Ennis fouls out then hits half-court shot (video)

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Against the Pacers last night, James Ennis missed all three of his 3-point attempts… that counted. And he makes this one after fouling out?

Mike Conley more than picked up the slack to lead the Grizzlies to victory.

Pelicans’ Dante Cunningham jumps on scorer’s table, Anthony Davis jumps on him (video)

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The Pelicans are effectively out of the playoff race, but Dante Cunningham and Anthony Davis are still competing — even if it looks a little silly.

That tone and a big game from DeMarcus Cousins (29 points, 16 rebounds, six assists) led to a 121-118 win over the Mavericks.