Doug McDermott has had a rough go of things. After a reasonably decent sophomore campaign last season that saw him bounce back from a disastrous rookie year, many expected the four-year Creighton star to take another leap. Instead, McDermott has flatlined, with both his numbers and minutes diminishing as of late. What’s going on with the man formerly-but-also-still-kinda-sometimes-known-as McBuckets?
For one thing, Doug has not ascended into the realm of elite shooters as many hoped he would. With the Bulls’ addition of so many non-shooting players such as Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade last offseason, some speculated that Doug would see an uptick in minutes and three-point shot attempts. It was a reasonable expectation, as he shot 42.5% from deep last year, but it just hasn’t panned out. McDermott is shooting 36.8% from 3 this season, and his attempts have stalled out at just 3.2 per game.
Part of that can be attributed to a couple of early season concussions that knocked him out for a combined 12 games, but even with those behind him, Doug has still struggled to establish any sort of rhythm. Part of it seems to be a conscious decision; many times, the Bulls run plays for McDermott that involve him coming off screens for jump shot. However, instead of stepping back for a three point shot, he curls inward to take a free throw line jumper instead. It’s working out alright for him, as he’s shooting a career high 49.1% on two point field goals, but it doesn’t do any favors for Chicago’s horrendous spacing. His 3-point attempt rate should be up from last year’s 40.2%, but instead, it’s slightly down, at 39.6%.
Another factor hampering McDermott’s performance this season is that the rest of the team, from the coaching staff down, seem determined to go away from Doug as an offensive option later into the game. Doug usually checks into the game at the start of the 2nd quarter, and typically gets his shots up right away. Lately, much of this is due to Rajon Rondo, who has semi-embraced a role as backup point guard of finding the Bulls’ young players for shot attempts. However, Doug’s shot attempts diminish greatly as the game goes on. He’s attempted 52 3-pointers in the 2nd quarter of games, more than 20 more than in any other quarter.
Furthermore, there’s evidence that the quality of the shots diminishes as well. Doug shoots 51.9% on those 2nd quarter 3-point attempts, but in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th quarters, he shoots 23.8, 29.0, and 29.2 % respectively. It makes sense, as the 2nd quarter bench units feature much more fervent ball movement and (slightly) more floor spacing, giving Doug more room to operate. In contrast, we’ve often seen how the 4th quarter Bulls’ offense is bogged down by a isolation plays.
It’s a bit of a catch-22; the Bulls need Doug to divert the offense from becoming stagnant, but Doug struggles because of the stagnant offense. As a result of his tribulations, Doug has seen reduced minutes of late, averaging just 16.2 minutes in the month of February so far after being displaced in the rotation by second round pick Paul Zipser.
What can Doug do to work his way into the role of a valuable contributor? Seeing as his defense is not magically going to improve to even league-average level overnight, he can start with something that’s more in his control, which taking more threes. If he does that, the makes will come; he’s too good of a shooter to continue to underachieve. There’s ample evidence in both the metrics and the eye test that Doug’s shooting helps the offense. So why hold back?