With just 10% of the NBA season in the rear view mirror, we are all still audience members at small sample size theater. The grind of an 82 game season tends to level off extreme performances both good and bad. But through eight games, the impact of Doug McDermott has been bad enough that it deserves some early season attention.
Judging McDermott only by his box score statistics does not capture the detriment that his presence on the court brings. The second year man from Creighton has actually been very good based solely on basketball’s most primitive data. In 21 minutes per game (up from an average of eight minutes in just 36 games played last year) McDermott is averaging 11.1 points and is shooting 53% from the field and 57.6% from three. Those shooting splits are very impressive and fall in line with what Bulls fans expected when the team moved up to draft the sharpshooter. He’ll inevitably regress from this fantastic rate, but even a decent sized decline will still have him among the league leaders in shooting percentage. After a disastrous rookie season, McDermott is clearly playing with a new sense of confidence and is taking advantage of the sets coach Hoiberg has designed for him.
Doug McDermott appears to be an efficient role player on the surface, but digging any deeper into the numbers paints a much different picture. When McDermott is in the game, according to NBA.com, the Bulls net rating is -15.8, by far the lowest of any player to appear in more than five minutes worth of action. The Bull with the second lowest on court net rating is the -3.3 owned by Pau Gasol (an issue for another day). When McDermott is out of the game, the Bulls net rating skyrockets to +15.6, the highest net rating of any off court Bull by 4.5 points.
The Bulls crater on the defensive end with Doug in the game. Overall this season, the Bulls are sixth in the NBA in defensive rating, holding opponents to an impressive 96.1 points per 100 possessions. With McDermott on the court, the Bulls are giving up 105.5 points per 100 possessions. Doug thus far has looked totally lost executing any sort of defensive scheme on defense. Check out Ricky O’Donnell’s great breakdown of the myriad ways Doug has struggled guarding players in any and all scenarios.
The Bulls have been a below average rebounding team this season, grabbing just 48.7% of missed shots, 19th best in the league. With Doug McDermott on the court, the Bulls rebound rate drops to 46.6%, tied for 29th with the banged up Pelicans. McDermott is doing nothing to generate stops, and he’s not helping finish off possessions when his teammates force the opposition into a difficult shot.
The issue with Doug’s performance does not seem to be a product of Hoiberg sticking him in bad lineup combinations. He’s played 96 minutes with both Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah and the team’s net rating in those pairings is -17.5 and -19.6, respectively. In 85 minutes on the court with Taj Gibson, the Bulls are -29. The big he’s played “best” with is also the one he’s played with the least. In the 73 minutes Mirotic and McDermott have played together, the Bulls are only -7.2. The presence of Doug alongside Noah and Taj at the same time does nothing to improve their defensive rating, and when on the court with Gasol and Mirotic, the offense somehow only manages to score 88.7 points per 100 possessions.
The craziest thing about McDermott is that, despite the unsustainable hot shooting streak he’s been on to start the year, the Bulls have been the worst offense in the league with him on the court. An 89.9 offensive rating for a player who’s supposed to juice the offense is the trend that troubles me more than the bad defense. It’s the third lowest number of any player averaging twenty or more minutes a game (Jahlil Okafor and Matt Barnes are the only two players below him).
This will be something I pay very close attention to in upcoming games. In theory, having a player like McDermott forces the defense to commit a man to chasing him all over the court. Whether or not McDermott finds the ball in his hands, it should effectively create four-on-four opportunities for his teammates. This is the Kyle Korver effect, and Atlanta uses the attention the former Bull draws to create open driving lanes to the basket and find cutters moving without the ball. Why have the Bulls not been able to create offense using similar principles?
Hoiberg is still firmly in the experimentation stage with this team and I believe he will find creative ways to make the offense flow around McDermott. But it’s something to keep a close eye on.