Tags

, ,

Image

For those who appreciate statistics, Creighton senior forward Doug McDermott oozes appeal.  He has posted a PER of at least 31.0 in each of his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons.  This year he is carrying a whopping 32.9% usage rate with just an 11.6% turnover rate and a 62.3% TS.  He is shooting 52.6% on 2’s, 43.4% on 3’s, and 89.6% from the line, and his 3 point percentage is actually down from his past two seasons where he shot 49% behind the arc.  That is an incredible combination of volume and efficiency and he has solid rebounding and assist totals as well, so it’s easy to see why both ESPN and DraftExpress have him as a lottery pick (he is 14th and 12th respectively on their big boards).

In spite of all of his offensive goodness, his most amazing statistics may be his steal and block totals.  In 127 college games averaging 30.9 minutes per game, he has a grand total of 31 steals and 12 blocks.  It is dumbfoundingly rare for him to make a play on the defensive end.  While Creighton does not often gamble on defense, he has ranked comfortably last on the team in steal rate in each of his sophomore through senior seasons.  His steal percentages from his sophomore through senior seasons have been 0.4%, 0.4%, and 0.5% respectively.  Among his teammates who have played 300 or more minutes in any of those seasons, the next lowest steal rate was from Gregory Echenique in 11-12 at 0.9%.  While an effective college player, Echenique was a doughy, lumbering big man who lacked great length and was nowhere near an NBA prospect.  Yet he had more than twice as many steals as McDermott, as did the rest of his largely unathletic, non-prospect teammates.  And in spite of being 6’8, McDermott is not setting himself apart with blocks, accruing just 1 per every 327 minutes of college play.  This is all with Creighton being a mid-major that has not played an especially difficult schedule.

Recently there have been studies claiming a strongly positive correlation between college steal rates and NBA success, and it’s easy to see the underlying logic.  If a player has the tools and instincts to be a good NBA defender, he should be able to create turnovers against inferior college competition without habitually gambling.  Steals are not perfect and must be adjusted for context, but they serve as a decent approximation of a prospect’s defensive playmaking ability.


McDermott is 6’8 with a 6’8.5 wingspan and is listed at 225 pounds, which leaves him incapable of regularly defending NBA PF’s since most can both bully him and shoot over him given his lack of length and strength.  This leaves SF as his likely position, where on the perimeter his lack of quicks and athleticism will be a major issue.  No matter whom he tries to defend in the NBA his physical disadvantages will be glaring,  as there may not be a player in the league who is more physically ill equipped to guard anyone.  It is a serious concern that he will become the worst defensive player in the entire league, which would negate whatever offensive value he brings and leave him as a replacement level player at best.  On the upside, he reputedly does work hard on defense and is a smart team defender.  Any team who drafts him would have to be confident that these strengths can mitigate his weaknesses to justify a 1st round selection.  But optimism should be curbed, as there is no precedent of an NBA prospect who is so poor at both forcing turnovers and altering shots, let alone of one succeeding.  Here is a comparison of his steal and block rates to past high skill, questionable tool prospects:

Player Steal% Block%
Kyle Korver 2.9 1.9
Jimmer Fredette 2.3 0.1
JJ Redick 1.8 0.1
Matt Bonner 1.6 2
Wally Szczerbiak 1.6 2.5
Luke Babbitt 1.5 2
Adam Morrison 1.3 0.4
Steve Novak 1.1 0.3
Ryan Anderson 0.9 0.5
Doug McDermott 0.5 0.3

Korver is a common comparison for McDermott since both are white players and great shooters who played four seasons at Creighton, and that comparison is misguided.  Part of the reason why Korver is such a useful pro is that he plays respectable defense and doesn’t negate his offensive value on that end.  His steal and block totals indicated this as a possibility, and it is insane that he slid to 51st overall in the draft. Even Steve Novak, who is arguably the worst defensive player in the NBA produced over twice as many steals as McDermott and has a clearer niche as a PF being 2 inches taller. JJ Redick is the only successful current pro without any positive tools for his position, but his vastly superior steal rate against tougher competition suggests that perhaps he is not quite as athletically challenged for his position.  And he did have to spend first three seasons in the league developing his game before becoming rotation caliber, and he didn’t become a solid starter until his 6th or 7th season in the league.

It could be argued that Ryan Anderson inspires hope for McDermott, as he has become a valuable NBA player who plays acceptable defense and has far exceeded his draft slot EV without racking up steals and blocks in college.  But Randerson had the tools to play PF as he is 6’10 240, and he still achieved nearly twice the steal and block rate in college.  This is a detail that Anderson himself noted after McDermott participated in the USA basketball mini-camp this past summer.  Per CBS:

“Anderson pointed out that McDermott’s future position is also a question. Will he be a slower small forward, or a shorter power forward?”

When even your below the rim brethren question your tools to perform at the next level, it may be a sign that you are a cut below the threshold for success.

McDermott’s defensive projection in the NBA ranges from downright horrific to moderately bad.  Is it really that big a deal since he has far better offensive stats than anybody else in the pool?  The answer is yes, because his defensive concerns are correlated with concerns regarding his ability to translate his scoring repertoire to the NBA.  He is a great shooter, and shooting always translates to the pros.  But he’s a worse shooter than Steve Novak, and Novak’s defense prevents him from being a regular rotation player.  Here is a shooting comparison with Novak’s college stats on the left and McDermott’s on the right:

3PA/40

3p%

FT%

3PA/40

3p%

FT%

Freshman

8.5

0.505

0.939

4.1

0.405

0.746

Sophomore

9

0.43

0.912

4

0.486

0.796

Junior

8.3

0.461

0.905

5.5

0.49

0.875

Senior

9.9

0.467

0.974

7.3

0.434

0.896

Career

9

0.461

0.931

4.9

0.458

0.831

Not only did Novak have a much higher FT% each season and a slightly higher 3p% overall, but he also attempted a greater volume of 3’s.  It is likely that his average quality of 3 point shot was lower, as he had nearly double the career attempts per minute with both teams playing at similar paces.  Jeff Van Gundy coached Novak in Houston and has called him the best 3 point shooter he has ever seen, and the stats justify that assertion as reasonable.  Yet he is still roughly replacement level as an NBA player since his defense is so bad and his offensive game is otherwise limited.

For McDermott to succeed as a pro, he needs to be more than a spot up shooter.  While his odds may seem reasonable given that he is far more effective inside the arc as a college player than Novak, the same lack of tools that limit him defensively also inhibit his ability to translate his paint scoring to the pros.  He will struggle to get his shot up over any NBA big men with his lack of reach, he won’t be able to outmuscle any of them, and he remains an eternal underdog to ever leap over any of them.  71% of his points this year have come inside the arc or at the free throw line, and that enormous chunk of production will largely get diluted or evaporate altogether in the NBA.  Further, he struggles to create his own shot and does not shoot well off the dribble. As a senior, 72.5% of his rim FG attempts and 60.6% of his non-rim 2 point attempts have been assisted.  In a way this is good since he will often be playing off the ball as a pro, but the downside is there is no fat to be trimmed off his game that will cause a better than expected translation.  Perhaps he will get an occasional bucket on a cut when rim traffic is limited, but it is not clear how he can achieve either high volume or high efficiency in the paint.

To get a sense for the impression his game left on NBA players at team USA mini-camp, here are some quotes:

“There’s always a place for a shooter,” Barnes said. “He can make shots with the best of them.”

“He’s a confident player. He’s a confident shooter, a confident scorer,” New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson said. “I think a college guy can come in here and be intimidated, but he wasn’t. He accepted the challenge.”

“He can shoot the shit out of the basketball,” Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond said. “It’s incredible. I was surprised he didn’t come out for the draft this year, but he’s going to make a lot of money the way he shoots.”

“He’s going to be a great shooter in this league,” Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson added.

Other than Anderson calling him a confident scorer (after first going with confident shooter), nobody seems impressed with anything other than his shooting.

Taken altogether, McDermott’s lack of tools drastically inhibit his draft value.  Not only do they guarantee that he will be bad defensively, but they also ensure that a significant portion of his offensive dominance will be lost in translation.  He needs to overperform expectations to be passably bad instead of a nightmare on defense and he needs to bring a second dimension to his offensive game other than shooting.

Given the success of JJ Redick it is not fair to write off McDermott entirely, as high IQ and work ethic can overcome a surprising amount of physical deficiency.  But even Redick is merely a good role player after achieving his upside, so it is not as if the GM’s who passed on him must now live with tremendous regret.  The bottom line is both McDermott’s ceiling and floor are underwhelming.  In a reasonably deep draft, it will be questionable to use a 1st rounder on him and laughable to expend a lottery pick.  Perhaps a naive team who is newly discovering the wonders of TS% and PER will be seduced by his stats, but I would wager that smart front offices will resist drafting Ougie Fresh in the 1st round.

Advertisements