King: Doug McDermott could be NBA's most improved player


King: Doug McDermott could be NBA's most improved player

The only direction for Doug McDermott to go is up. Stacey King believes he could be trending that way in a hurry this season.

Speaking at the Bulls/Sox Academy in Lisle on Tuesday, the Bulls' color commentator said McDermott could earn some hardware All-Star Jimmy Butler took home a year ago.

"I totally would not be surprised if Doug McDermott is the most improved player in the NBA this year," King said. "I know his minutes are going to go up. This is a kid who was a lottery pick, the Bulls gave up a lot to get him."

The No. 11 pick in last June's NBA Draft, McDermott had a largely forgettable rookie campaign. He appeared in just 36 games after needing knee surgery in November, and averaged 3.0 points and 1.2 rebounds in 8.9 minutes per game. Part of McDermott's quiet campaign stemmed from former coach Tom Thibodeau's apathy toward playing rookies, something King also noted.

[MORE: Stacey expects Derrick Rose to make the All-Star team]

"Tom Thibodeau is one of those old-school coaches; he doesn't play younger players. Jimmy Butler didn't play his first year and the only reason he played his second year is because Rip Hamilton and Marco Belinelli got hurt, and we may not have seen Jimmy prosper into the player he is now," he said. "So I expect the same kind of improvement from Doug McDermott under Fred Hoiberg. He's going to play."

McDermott got his first taste of life under Hoiberg in the Las Vegas Summer League; McDermott averaged 18.8 points on 49 percent shooting in five games, and should see a larger role in Hoiberg's up-tempo offensive system.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the season, Bulls fans!]

King also touted Tony Snell, and surmised that the front office's faith in both McDermott and Snell were reasons they felt comfortable not adding another wing or shooter this offseason. The team selected power forward Bobby Portis with the No. 22 pick and re-signed Mike Dunleavy to a three-year, $14 million contract.

"A lot of people say, 'you need to go out and get a swing player.' Well, you've got two quality young players that can help you right now that if given the time can really do some special things," King said. "I'm excited to see these younger players play. It's going to be a fun year."

NBA Power Rankings: League on pace for best offensive season in decades


NBA Power Rankings: League on pace for best offensive season in decades

The NBA season is off to an explosive start, with offense being the theme so far.

NBA fans have gotten to see great offense from all around the league. Rookie guard Trae Young went off for 35 points, the Pelicans scored 149 points in a (no overtime) game and even well-known downtrodden franchises like the Sacramento Kings have got in on the fun, putting up 131 points in a surprising win over the Thunder. 

If the pace of play keeps up league-wide, the 2018-19 season will end up being an offensive masterpiece, sure to spark change to defensive systems in the ever-evolving NBA.

With the Golden State Warriors still shaking off rust and the Rockets looking weaker, (relatively) new powerhouses like the Raptors and Nuggets have dominated this very early portion of the NBA season.

You can take a look here to see how the new hierarchy is shaping up in this week's NBA Power Rankings. 

Shaquille Harrison could improve the efficiency of Bulls bottom five defense

Shaquille Harrison could improve the efficiency of Bulls bottom five defense

The Phoenix Suns released guard Shaquille Harrison last week, and although it is not a move that will send shockwaves through the league, the Bulls picking up Harrison could be the exact type of move to help solve what ails them.

At 6-foot, 4-inches and with a long wingspan, Harrison would step in and likely be at least the second-best perimeter defender on the team behind Kris Dunn. And he is the type of player, when combined with a talent like Wendell Carter Jr. and/or Dunn, could help form the type of lineup that could have a transformative effect on the overall team defense.

Last season Harrison had a defensive rating of 109, this despite the fact that the Sun—as a team—had a defensive rating of 113.51, over four points worse than when Harrison was on the floor.

His best skill is his ability to “get skinny” around a screener, meaning that on defense, Harrison is adept at angling his body to get around players trying to screen him off his man:

The Bulls need more players who show Harrison’s effort level when navigating screens on defense, not just because it will make life easier on their rim protectors, but because they also need to make sure they continue adding players who lead by example on that end of the floor. A team as young as the Bulls needs to collect young talent who pride themselves on defense, and Harrison fits the part.

When it comes to offense, Harrison doesn’t have the most impressive profile, but his play on that end of the floor is similar to former Bull David Nwaba. Harrison is not even an average 3-point shooter  (23.1 percent from 3-point range), but he makes up for it in other ways.

His rebounding is an area of strength, and fitting in with his preference to bring physicality to his matchup, he is adept at getting to the free throw line.

Last year Harrison’s 30.6 percent free throw attempt rate would’ve been a top-five mark on the Bulls. But his low usage rate (18 percent) will likely be lower in Chicago, so the free throw numbers may fall. But with so many score-first players on the roster, Harrison will still be able to crash the glass against the many guards who forget to box out their man.

Offensive rebounding will be less of a focus for a Bulls team that wants to preach getting back on transition defense, but Harrison gives Fred Hoiberg a special player that can do both. Harrison will run back on defense to help create the “shell” that the best teams create to cut off easy forays to the rim, and then when his team gets the ball back and is on the fastbreak, he brings value as the “trailer” (trailing man on a fastbreak) even without shooting ability:

This signing could end up being a big one for the Bulls, however small it may seem now.

Around the league, more and more teams are starting to invest resources in multiple ball-handler offenses that negate the differences between point guard and shooting guard, making versatile back court defenders a must.

This will be evident when the Bulls take on the Dallas Mavericks in game No. 3 of the regular season, as Rick Carlisle's Mavericks feature Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic in an explosive offense that doesn't have a defined "lead" guard.

The Bulls will continue to attempt to curtail offense with a high-scoring back court duo when they take on the Charlotte Hornets in a back-to-back on October 26 and 27. If Harrison is worked into the rotation by then, expect to see Harrison and Dunn on the floor together to match up with Doncic and Smith respectively, but have the flexibility to switch defensive assignments on the fly. If Chicago's perimeter defense starts to offer significantly more resistance, it will allow quicker improvement from Carter and the rest of the Bulls bigs on the interior.

With Zach LaVine currently in the top-five in the NBA in points per game, Dunn returning and Lauri Markkanen getting healthy, the Bulls front office is slowly approaching the point where their team has enough players who are considered possible focal points of an offense.

To become a championship contender, you need to have that one player who is unequivocally a superstar capable of a heavy workload, and only time will tell if the Bulls already have that player or need to acquire him. But the other important factor in building a championship roster is having the elite-level role players who do the little things that make life easier for their teammates in all phases of the game, and Shaq Harrison is excellent prospect who fits that exact mold.