This season has been full of ups and downs for the Chicago Bulls, to say the least. Derrick Rose missed 31 games, Joakim Noah hasn’t returned to top four MVP form and the Bulls once elite defense looked lost at times as the team’s body count rose.
Still, the most surprising and disappointing facet of the Bulls’ season came was the play of their prized rookie. No, not Nikola Mirotic, who led all rookies with a 17.93 PER and put up 20.8 points per game in March, but the man who the Bulls traded the 16th and 19th overall picks and two second-round picks to get. The most disappointing rookie in his class, the former Creighton star, Doug McDermott.
McDermott’s Bulls career actually didn’t start out so bad. McDermott averaged 18 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting 44.4 percent from three in four Summer League games for Chicago. It was looking like Doug’s sweet jumper, ability to navigate through screens to get open and underrated post game were transitioning to the NBA style smoothly.
The one catch, as always with Summer League play, was that McDermott was still just playing against college standouts and D-League players. And he was still the go-to player. The real question was if McDermott, the NCAA’s fourth-highest leading scorer ever, could carve out a niche as a role player. The answer to that question? Not yet.
McDermott played in only 36 games, partly due to knee surgery he had in January, and also because he was, well … not very good.
McDermott averaged just 3.0 points and 1.2 rebounds, and he had a total of six assists on the season. There was little sign of that silky jumper McDermott had at Creighton, as he shot 31.7 percent from three and 67 percent at the line. In McDermott’s defense, it’s a small sample size and he wasn’t given many chances to crack the rotation this season. But at 23 years old, he was drafted to contribute right away, not to struggle so mightily out of the gate.
Let’s dig a little deeper into McDermott’s season.
Per Synergy, McDermott shot 7-for-25 in spot-up opportunities and 6-for-17 off screens. He shot 25.0 percent on wide open threes, per SportVU. Those are some ugly numbers from a supposed sharpshooter. He also had a -12.2 net rating, per NBA.com, which doesn’t exactly scream that he should be getting more minutes.
Surprisingly, McDermott was at least an average transition player and finisher, making 24 out of 44 shots at the rim, which made up 41.1 percent of his shot attempts.
Despite Thibs and Co. desire for McDermott to be a big part of the Bulls’ future on the wing, it might be worth it to try sliding him over to the frontcourt. McDermott has played almost entirely on the wing this season after playing almost strictly at power forward at Creighton for four years. It’s not ideal to have Mirotic and McDermott playing the same position, but something may have to change if he’s ever going to make it in this league. McDermott could be an ideal stretch 4 off the bench, and even though he’d be a major liability defensively, you could stick him next to Noah or Taj Gibson to help alleviate the pain. Plus, it’s not like he has done much better defending guards this season.
Everyone wanted to see McDermott be a contributor on the wing this year, even though deep down, we all knew it wasn’t realistic as the season wore on. I mean, come on, he can’t even break into Tony Snell, Kirk Hinrich or even E’Twaun Moore’s minutes in the rotation. They’re not exactly setting the world ablaze. It’s also never a good sign when filling in for Brian Scalabrine as the fan favorite in garbage time becomes a silver lining. Watching the 11th overall pick resort to getting a standing ovation for making a shot at the end of a 104-86 game is sobering.
We’ve still seen some glimpses of the Dougie McBuckets we all know and love. He scored 12 points in two of his first four NBA games, had 16 points against Indiana and had 13 points and three triples against Charlotte. So he actually had some solid games that sort of went unnoticed.
McDermott was prone to rookie nerves and lapses just like anyone else, and he’s not gonna call it a career after one season. Tom Thibodeau has shown that he won’t pamper high draft picks and he’ll only play guys who buy into his system. Whether Thibs is coaching next season or not, it’s time for McDermott to buy in or he’ll be out sooner rather than later.