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 

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan staying in 2017 NBA draft

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Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan declared for the 2016 NBA draft, struggled at the combine, withdrew, got into great shape, had an All-American sophomore season, declared for the 2017 draft.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Swanigan:

Swanigan is a borderline first-round pick. He has a couple NBA-ready skills the good teams that typically pick late in the first round might covet, but thanks to trades, teams that didn’t win a playoff game this year hold most late first-round picks. They might pick someone with more upside than Swanigan.

Swanigan is a tenacious rebounder, particularly defensively. He has excellent fundamentals, size (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and ability to read the ball, and he crashes through contact to hunt boards.

He’s also a quality post-up player who can finish with either hand and has the passing ability to make that play work.

But Swanigan is slow. NBA teams have become increasingly adept at running plodders like him off the court by dragging them into pick-and-rolls. Even when on the court, he hasn’t protected the rim at satisfactory levels.

Swanigan has overcome his athletic limitations as a rebounder. He hasn’t done so in other facets of defense.

He’s hardly a dinosaur offensively. He made 45% of his 3-pointers last season, and though I’m not confident that will translate to NBA 3-point range (give the small sample and his form), he should be at least a midrange threat.

Swanigan is also just 20, young for a sophomore. He can improve.

But it’s just hard to look past his defensive limitations.

Hawks hire Travis Schlenk as general manager

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The Hawks picked Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk as their next general manager. All that was left was negotiating terms.

That’s done.

Hawks:

The Atlanta Hawks today announced the hiring of Travis Schlenk as General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations. He will start leading Hawks basketball operations on June 1.

Schlenk worked his way up the latter and helped the Warriors become the envy of every other NBA team. He deserves this opportunity.

But the job won’t be easy.

The Hawks are stuck between two directions. On one side, they have veterans Paul Millsap (a 32-year-old pending unrestricted free agent whom the owner has basically promised a huge contract) and Dwight Howard (who sounds unhappy). On the other side, they have a youth movement featuring Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince. Tim Hardaway Jr., who bridges the age groups, is about to enter a potentially tricky restricted free agency.

Keeping the core together offers the upside of a playoff-series victory or two annually, modest outcomes for the cost. But a fragile Atlanta fan base might not tolerate a rebuild.

Schlenk works for owner Tony Ressler, and Ressler sounds committed to maintaining the status quo by keeping Millsap. It’s now Schlenk’s job to execute that vision or convince his boss to approve a different direction.

Potential none-and-done first-rounder Hamidou Diallo returning to Kentucky

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The more I’ve looked into the 2017 NBA draft, the less impressed I’ve become. There are a few bright spots in the first round relative to an average draft – No. 2, 5ish-10ish, 17ish-22ish – but I’m not convinced this is the generationally strong draft it has been touted as.

In the absence of prospects who offer secure promise, why not turn to upside? Hamidou Diallo offered plenty and was increasingly viewed as a first-rounder.

Yet, he’ll return to Kentucky for his freshman season.

Diallo:

A highly ranked recruit, Diallo began last school year at a prep school then enrolled at Kentucky for the spring semester. He practiced with the Wildcats, but never played.

Then, he went to the combine and posted excellent measurables: 6-foot-5, 6-foot-11 wingspan, 44.5-inch vertical and strong agility and sprint scores. Just 18, Diallo might have been the second-youngest player drafted this year (behind only Ike Anigbogu).

It wouldn’t have taken long – likely somewhere in the middle of the first round – for a team to bite on all that potential.

Instead, Diallo returns to Kentucky and must now show his ability to actually produce in basketball games. If he does, there’s no limit on how high he goes in the 2018 NBA draft. If he doesn’t, he’ll regret missing the opportunity to get drafted before his game got picked apart.

Report: Bulls expect Dwyane Wade to opt in

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Dwyane Wade said he wants to see the Bulls’ plan for Jimmy Butler and the rest of the roster before deciding on a $23.8 million player option for next season.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

I can tell you is most everyone associated with the Bulls believes Wade will pick up the option and remain in Chicago for a second season. More surprising things have happened in league history, though. So stay tuned.

This could be a tell that Wade will opt in. The Bulls could obviously be positioned to base their prediction on inside information into Wade’s thinking.

This could a tell the Bulls won’t trade Butler. If they know they’ll keep Butler, they can extrapolate what that’d mean for Wade.

Or the Bulls, like so many of us, just assume a 35-year-old Wade won’t turn down so much guaranteed money at this stage of his career.