The Chicago Bulls are putting together a very strange group of players heading into this season. With the addition of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo on two-year contracts, it appears that the Bulls are trying to make the playoffs while rebuilding for the future at the same time. In order for Chicago to have it’s cake and eat it too, they need someone other than Jimmy Butler to build around. At least one of their young assets needs to have a big year to prove they can be part of a future contending team. The Bulls gave up two first-round picks for Doug McDermott thinking he could develop into just such a player. This is the year McDermott needs to prove that he can be a part of that future.
The player prototype for McDermott has a precedent already in today’s NBA. Players like J.J. Redick, Kyle Korver, and Mike Dunleavy have carved out a much-needed role as bigger, sharp-shooting wings with long NBA careers. All title-contending teams need a wing player that can stretch the floor while not being a complete liability on defense. Players of McDermott’s type don’t become reliable NBA starters overnight. For most of these players, it took more than a few years to figure out their role and spent time on multiple teams before they became effective NBA starters. McDermott might not have that luxury if he wants to stay a Bull.
After a non-existent rookie season, due to knee surgery and a coach who favored defensive perfection over scoring, McDermott steadily improved over his second season under Coach Hoiberg. Post All-Star break, McDermott shot over 47 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from beyond the arc in 24 minutes per game. He looked more comfortable in the flow of the offense, improved his decision-making, and even threw down a few impressive dunks towards the end of the season.
The problem has been his defense. McDermott often gets singled out by other teams in isolation matchups against larger forwards and struggles to stay in front of athletic or quicker wings and guards. His steals and blocks are basically non-existent. He has been working with Jimmy Butler this summer to improve his lateral quickness to stay on the floor longer but will need to prove that he has the defensive IQ and effort to be considered a long-term asset.
McDermott also needs to improve his all-around offense. While morphing into a reliable shooter who can spread the floor, he doesn’t often contribute anywhere else. He averaged less than an assist and only got to the line once per game. McDermott might be able to learn some tricks of the trade from Wade in getting to the line, but he will need to be more aggressive and move the ball more to increase his effectiveness on offense as well.
In a team desperate for shooting, McDermott needs to be able to fill that gap throughout the season. Running him with Rondo should get him more open looks and help spread out the floor. This would mean overlapping him with the first team or even trying him against small-ball-four lineups. With such a strange roster, Hoiberg’s rotations will play a major part in McDermott’s development and the Bulls success, but McDermott has a long way to go in order to be a reliable NBA player. With only one more year left on his rookie contract, this is the year McDermott needs to make a leap in order to be a part of the Bull’s long-term future.