Doug McDermott strongly considered entering last year’s draft, but opted to stay in school for one more year. As we detailed in our profile of Marcus Smart, a year can make quite a difference in a player’s draft value. While Smart’s stock has slipped from last year, when he declined to stay at Oklahoma State despite being projected near the very top of the draft, McDermott has seen his stock skyrocket after returning to Creighton for his senior year.
Last year, McDermott was seen as a late first-rounder or second-rounder at best, but he’s projected at No. 10 overall in the latest DraftExpress mock draft, and ranked No. 13 in ESPN Insider Chad Ford’s Top 100 prospects list. Ironically, McDermott didn’t even consider a lottery selection to be a possibility when making his decision to return for his senior year. McDermott sought Creighton alum Kyle Korver‘s advice, telling Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports at the time, “[The 2014 draft] looks stronger at the top 15 to 18 picks, but after that it’s about the same. But that’s probably not going to be my range this year or next year, anyway. That helped me [decide].”
McDermott played power forward in college, and is listed at 6’8″ and 225 lbs. A dynamic scorer, the 22-year-old averaged 21.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game with a slash line of .550/.458/.831 in his four years at Creighton. He upped his scoring average this year, but was actually a slightly more efficient scorer in his junior year. It’s possible that Creighton’s move from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Big East had a hand in raising his profile, validating his status as one of the nation’s premier scorers. McDermott is already an extremely decorated athlete, holding Creighton’s all-time scoring record with more than 1,000 points more than the next most prolific scoring Bluejay, ranking third in career rebounds at the school, and becoming one of just a dozen players to earn First-Team All American honors three times in the history of the award.
McDermott is probably a bit undersized to establish himself as exclusively a power forward in the NBA, and isn’t quick enough to guard many of the league’s small forwards. The dreaded “tweener” label isn’t always a death knell, especially in a league utilizing more and more small-ball and unconventional lineups. However, some young frontcourt players with positional ambiguity have indeed struggled, for example Anthony Bennett (6’8″, 259 lbs.; designated a small forward) and Derrick Williams (6’8″, 240 lbs.; designated a power forward).
McDermott’s greatest strengths have been shooting and rebounding, two skillsets that tend to translate well from college to pro hoops. However, some scouts have questions about his size and lack of athleticism. Whether McDermott can survive defensively in the NBA is a concern. McDermott’s athletic limitations don’t preclude him from finding ways to effectively spot-up or even create his shot consistently, but it’s a tougher task to overcome the same limitations on defense.
There are plenty of elite shooters and scorers in the NBA who thrive despite being liabilities on the defensive end, although it is easier to hide or even utilize a physically overmatched wing in a team defense scheme than it is to accommodate for a limited frontcourt defender. David Lee of the Warriors is close to McDermott’s size, and his poor defense makes his value as a starter arguably a net loss despite his knack for scoring and rebounding, depending on how you value certain advanced metrics. Still, McDermott would be a huge success as a late lottery pick if his career paralleled that of Lee.
Whichever team selects McDermott will see whether he can continue to find ways to make his game work, taking a chance in the hopes that he will be able to produce somewhere north of 15 points per game in a best-case scenario. McDermott, a coach’s son, will no doubt work to make that team’s gamble worthwhile. Even in the case that he doesn’t pan out as a top-shelf NBA talent, there are greater risks than drafting an established shooter.