LAS VEGAS--Perfect placement, perfect form, impeccable release.
Only Klay Thompson’s shooting form rivals Doug McDermott’s fundamentals in today’s NBA, seemingly, but Thompson’s results are more proof of his process than that of the 11th pick in the 2014 Draft.
McDermott finds himself battling the bad luck of last year along with trying to find himself mixed into an environment where his opponents are desperate to earn a guaranteed contract in the NBA’s Summer League.
There were moments where you could see flashes of his being able to score in bunches, moments where issues surrounding his confidence is mere conjecture and not reality.
He couldn’t buy a basket early, like many of the Bulls in their 81-66 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Las Vegas’ Cox Pavilion, going scoreless until the third quarter.
Then the second-year player started filling it up.
He scored seven straight, which was followed by a Jab-fake-jab on the wing where that textbook jumper fell easily.
“It is a big year for Doug,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. “I thought he got it going in the second half. When he starts making baskets you can play through him. I think he’s gonna have that ability.”
Who knows if he’ll get those isolation opportunities on a team where Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler promise to get the time and space to create shots on the regular. With veteran Mike Dunleavy being rewarded with a three-year deal recently after displaying an ability to take advantage of open shots, it shows that’s what the Bulls are looking for—even in someone who’ll prevent McDermott from getting on the floor this season.
“He had great looks,” Hoiberg said. “I thought he passed up a couple. He can’t do that. Doug’s got an open shot, he’s gotta shoot it.”
“I have a lot of confidence in Doug and I’ve been trying to portray that to him. And get him to go and play with confidence. He’s obviously a gifted scorer.”
Imploring McDermott to shoot the ball when open seems like a foreign proposition, but it’s almost like he’s starting from scratch after a nondescript rookie season marred by a knee injury early, then inactivity upon his healthy return.
He had a few good games before injuring his knee, then couldn’t crack the rotation for more than spot minutes after the All-Star break and into the playoffs.
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“It’s tough. A lot of guys go through that early on, especially with a veteran team like Chicago last year,” Hoiberg said. “When he had the injury, Chicago was playing great and was playing guys who had it rolling. Tom (Thibodeau) went with the guys he felt could win games. Doug has to go in the mode of being a basketball player. He’s very versatile.”
“I’m not gonna lose that confidence because I believe in myself and my game,” McDermott said. “There’s gonna be nights where I don’t shoot well, don’t play great. But it’s part of the game and I’ll work extremely hard to get through it.”
Sunday was one of those nights as he finished with just 11 points, nine coming in that quick third-quarter flurry.
During his 5-for-13 showing, he rushed shots a bit and clapped his hands two possessions after his last miss, moments before he exited the game for the final time, a slight display of frustration.
“You gotta keep it all in perspective,” McDermott said. “If I have a good game, it’s good for my confidence because I haven’t played a lot of 5-on-5 last year. Any 5-on-5 competition is huge for me because I didn’t get a lot of experience. I’m just starting to get my feet wet.”
While he’s one of the players in Vegas on a guaranteed contract as opposed to hoping to impress a current team or another franchise, it’s clear McDermott feels the pressure to perform.
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The opportunities in this setting are immense, even if the play is far more physical and less structured. He’s reshuffled the weight in his body, gaining a bit to get to 225 pounds but he feels more adept to playing a power forward if need be.
The unconventionality of the playoffs showed he may have to be ready in the event the Bulls want to play smaller on occasion, and the strength means he must be ready to defend his position.
“He’s a basketball player,” Hoiberg said. “You look at different lineups that happened in the playoffs. Was (Golden State’s) Harrison Barnes ever in his life a (power forward)? No. But he played it in the playoffs.”
Whether at guard or even big forward, McDermott will have to maximize every opportunity to display that fundamental jumper.
And making a few wouldn’t hurt, either.