Doug McDermott Still Finding His Way
For the majority of NBA rookies, transitioning to the league is a difficult process that requires time and patience. This is true even for a player who spent four years in college and whose father was his coach in each of those four years, a player who had a dominant career that included being named a consensus first team All-American three years in a row (2012-14), a two-time Lute Olson award winner (2012 and 2014), two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year (2012-13), Big East Player of the Year (2014), NCAA Scoring Champion (2014), fifth all-time leader in points scored in NCAA Division I history (3,150 points) and one of three players to have more than 3,000 points and 1,000 rebounds throughout his career.
Despite the four years of experience and all of the awards, Doug McDermott admits that it’s not easy being a rookie and that he is still trying to find his way with the Chicago Bulls.
“I’m still kind of establishing a role to be honest,” McDermott told Basketball Insiders. “It’s still really early, and I’m just trying to get my feet wet and learn more things defensively and the playbook, and everything’s coming along great. So I’m making steps, but I think it’s still early and I think I can have a really good role on this team, not just as a shooter, but overall just a good role.”
McDermott, referred to by many as “Dougie McBuckets” for his scoring prowess, was selected 11th overall by the Denver Nuggets in this year’s draft. However, the Nuggets soon after traded McDermott to the Bulls, along with Anthony Randolph, for both of Chicago’s 2014 first-round picks (16 and 19), and a future second-round pick.
At Creighton, McDermott was the go-to-guy. But with the Bulls, he is another piece of a larger puzzle. On a Chicago team that features star players like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol as well as a supporting cast of talented veterans, many would assume that McDermott would only be concerned with spacing the floor with his shooting and moving the ball when covered. But McDermott, who started preparing for the transition to the NBA early in the offseason, is looking to do more than score for the Bulls, particularly being more aggressive defensively.
“I worked on a lot of things,” McDermott said. “Ball-handling, just being able to make better reads off screens. I played a lot of four in college, so now I’m a three and I’m still learning coming off pin-downs, and making the right reads.
“I focused on [defense] in the past, it’s just obviously a different level now. In college, I couldn’t get in foul trouble for our team. I had to be on the floor, so I couldn’t be as aggressive, but now with more limited minutes I can be more aggressive out there and take a few more chances and that’s something that I’m still trying to learn.”
The Bulls are just 11 games into the season, which means McDermott has plenty of time to continue honing his role. But one of the biggest issues McDermott has had to deal with is inconsistent playing time, a problem that a great majority of rookies struggle with.
“It’s an adjustment, mentally and physically,” McDermott said. “In college, obviously, most of us we’re starting and we got a chance to get our body loose, and after doing that for four years, you just become so adapted to it. And now I have to learn how to train my body to come off the bench… so when I work out, I don’t necessarily get loose before anytime, and now I just go to the gym and shoot because it’s more game like.”
Working in McDermott’s favor is four years of college experience and the support of experienced veterans.
“I feel like I’ve been through a lot, a lot of experiences, a lot of adversity, ups-and-downs, and I feel like it prepared me well for this,” said McDermott. “It’s a challenge being a rookie, man, it’s tough. It’s really tough at times, but I got to keep working because it’s really early.”
“All of the veterans, even guys like Pau and [Joakim], they’re all looking out for us, which is great and is something that I think will help us young guys far into our future.”
Even though McDermott is focused on helping the Bulls in several ways, ultimately his greatest strength lies in his ability to score the ball and in his jump-shot, which he pits against some of the other shooters on the team in practice. When asked who, if anyone, could beat him in a shooting contest, McDermott looked around the room to see which players were sitting next to him and carefully crafted his answer.
“I mean, there’s a few guys,” McDermott said as teammate Nikola Mirotic giggled in anticipation of his answer. “Nikola [Mirotic], Mike [Dunleavy], I mean there’s a lot of guys, Tony [Snell], Aaron [Brooks], I mean everyone can shoot here. It’s a different level.”
As McDermott continues his adaption to the NBA and tries to settle into a new role, he understands that the Bulls are a legitimate title contender and that team success is what matters most.
“We feel like we’re right there, we have a great team,” said McDermott. “But it’s really early and still a lot of basketball to be played. We just got to make sure everyone is healthy and keep getting better everyday.”
Timberwolves Will Not Trade Corey Brewer?
Last Sunday, Marc Stein of ESPN reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves were in active trade discussions involving Corey Brewer and that the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers were serious suitors.
Earlier today, Stein tweeted that the Rockets were the more likely destination for Brewer as the Cavaliers are also seeking a rim protector.
Things are fluid, as always in trade talks, but latest word is Houston more likely than Cleveland as landing spot via trade for Corey Brewer
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) November 20, 2014
Rockets have made it clear they're ready to move NOW. Cavs said to be weighing whether to prioritize pursuing rim protector or wing depth
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) November 20, 2014
However, Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press soon after tweeted a quote from Timberwolves President and head coach Flip Saunders stating that Brewer may not be moved after all.
Flip on Brewer: he's just too valuable to us to move. Says he understands why teams with championship hopes want him
— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) November 20, 2014
This could just be a negotiation tactic from Saunders to drive up Brewer’s value, but that remains to be seen. As Stein reported, both teams are looking for additional depth on the wing, but Cleveland has a more pressing need for a big man that can block shots.
Through 10 games, Brewer is averaging 10.2 points, three rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.1 steals in 23.5 minutes per game. Last year, against the Houston Rockets, Brewer scored 51 points in a 112-110 Timberwolves victory.
The Nick Young Effect
Through the first 10 games of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers were 1-9 and in desperate need of a boost. They got just that on Tuesday when Nick Young returned to the lineup after suffering a thumb injury in early October while trying to steal the ball from Kobe Bryant during practice.
The Lakers beat the Atlanta Hawks on the road, 114-109, getting all-around production from several players. After the game, Young, who many refer to as “Swaggy P,” jokingly told reporters that his presence on the court had an effect on his teammates.
“It’s like my swag just rubbed off on everybody,” Young said. “It was unbelievable.”
Whether Young was joking or not, it was clear that players like Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin and Jordan Hill were active and engaged on both sides of the court, which has seemingly not been the case for big chunks of the season. Against the Hawks, Boozer had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Lin had 15 points and 10 assists, and Hill had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Add in Young’s efficient 17 points, and the Lakers looked like a competitive, well-rounded team.
Then, one night later against the Houston Rockets, Young poured in eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, and helped the Lakers pull out a tough consecutive road win.
While Young is known for his offense, the Lakers are notably giving up just 93 points per 100 possession in the 56 minutes that Young has been on the court this season (of course, this is a small sample size, and we shouldn’t read too much into it). But Young’s laid-back, gun-slinging personality (which interestingly is in complete contrast to Kobe Bryant’s cut-throat, win-at-all-costs mentality), seems to have loosened up the Lakers on both ends of the court.
It could be the case that the Lakers will fall back into their slump, and that this was just a nice two-game reprieve from what is looking to be a long season for Los Angeles. But for at least two games, the Lakers had a swagger and confidence about them that can only be described as the “Nick Young Effect.”
NBA PM: Hornets Rookies May Become Key Contributors
Some key injuries may force Charlotte’s rookies into becoming effective role players earlier than expected, writes James Blancarte.
As the NBA finally gets underway tomorrow evening, the 2017 rookie draft class will get their first taste of regular season action. Teams reliant on young rookie talent might produce an exciting brand of basketball but that rarely translates into a winning formula. Having rookies play a key role for a team hoping to make the playoffs can be a risky endeavor.
Out West, the Los Angeles Lakers are relying on both Lonzo Ball as well as Kyle Kuzma, who may have worked his way into the rotation with his surprising preseason play. However, the Lakers are, at this point, not realistic contenders in the competitive Western Conference. In the East, the Philadelphia 76ers have more realistic playoff hopes. The team is relying on this year’s top overall draft pick, Markelle Fultz, and 2016’s top pick, Ben Simmons, for meaningful production. Although Simmons has been in the league for over a year, he is still classified as a rookie for this season since he didn’t play last season.
The Charlotte Hornets are looking to return to the playoffs after narrowly missing the cut this past season. The team will likely feature not one, but two true rookies as a part of their regular rotation. Like the Lakers, the Hornets feature a highly touted rookie with the talent and poise to contribute right away in Malik Monk. The team also features Dwayne Bacon, a rookie that has flashed scoring potential as well as maturity — key attributes that will allow him to quickly contribute to the team.
Both players will be given the opportunity to contribute as a result of the unfortunate and untimely injury to forward Nicolas Batum. Batum tore a ligament in his left elbow in an October 4 preseason game against the Detroit Pistons. Initial speculation was that the injury would require surgery. However, it was announced on October 10 that surgery would not be necessary, and that he is projected to return in six to eight weeks. Assuming that there are no setbacks in Batum’s recovery, the Hornets will be looking to replace his perimeter scoring, playmaking abilities and perimeter defense. Enter Monk and Bacon.
Monk and Bacon have both shown the ability to score the ball, which is not exactly a common trait in Hornets rookies. Bacon, the 40th pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has made it a point to look for his shot from the outside, averaging 7.8 three-point shots per game while knocking down 33.3 percent of his attempts. As Bacon gains more experience, he presumably will learn how to get cleaner looks at the basket within the flow of the team’s offense. Doing so should help him increase his shooting percentage from beyond the arc, which would turn him into an even more effective contributor for Charlotte.
Bacon spoke to reporters after a recent preseason game against the Boston Celtics. Bacon was placed in the starting lineup and went 4-4 from three-point range in 34 minutes of action.
When asked what are some of the things he wanted to work on, Bacon focused on one end of the court in particular.
“Definitely defense. I’m trying to perfect the defensive side, I want to be one of the best two-way players to ever play the game,” Bacon stated. “I feel like I got the offensive side so just keep getting better on defense, I’ll be fine.”
Lack of consistency and defense are key factors that prevent many rookies from playing and being successful on winning teams right away. Based on Bacon’s size (6-foot-6, 221 pounds with a long wingspan) and physicality, he has the physical tools necessary to play passable defense. Combine that with his ability to score (he led the team in scoring in three of its five preseason games) and the unfortunate injury to Batum, it’s apparent that Bacon will get an opportunity to make the rotation and contribute.
Reliable two-way players on the wing are crucially important, but are not always readily available and are even less common on cheap contracts. The Los Angeles Clippers went through the entire Chris Paul/Blake Griffin era swapping small forwards on a nearly annual basis, struggling to find this kind of contribution from the wing. With little cap flexibility, the Clippers were unable to acquire a forward that could effectively and consistently play both end of the court, which caused issues over the years. As a second round pick, Bacon is set to make $815,615 in his first year. If Bacon is able to contribute at even a league average level, that will be a major boost for the shorthanded Hornets. Bacon is smart to focus on improving as a defender as Steve Clifford is a defensive-minded coach who will leave talented players on the bench if they aren’t making a positive impact on the defensive end of the court.
In fact, Clifford offered some strong simultaneous praise and criticism of Monk when it came to his scoring and defense.
“He can score, he can score, he can score [speaking of Monk],” Clifford stated. “I think his defense will come because he’s willing, he’s a good guy. I think that being a good player is very important to him.”
It’s apparent in Clifford’s comment that he values scoring, but that defense is also extremely important and essential to any player that wants to be a “good player.”
“He knows and understands that the way he has played in the past [in college], he can’t play in this league if he wants to be a good player,” Clifford said about Monk. “The big thing is, I told him, when people say, ‘he’s a talented offensive player’ that is a lot different than somebody saying, ‘he’s a talented NBA player.’”
Point guard Michael Carter-Williams also suffered an injury (bone bruise in his left knee), which received less attention than Batum’s injury. While Carter-Williams is not the same caliber of player as Batum, the Hornets are alarmingly thing at backup point guard. Without Carter-Williams, the team was going to lean on Batum to act as a playmaker more than he has in the past, which would have, at least in part, addressed the lack of an established backup point guard. But with Batum sidelined, Coach Clifford has given Monk time at the point guard position. If Monk proves capable of playing both guard positions and playing alongside Walker, that could go a long way towards mitigating the loss of Batum and Carter-Williams. It’s not reasonable to expect Monk (or Bacon) to produce as consistently as a seasoned veteran, but having them contribute at a league average level would constitute a big win for a Charlotte team with serious playoff aspirations.
Teams Refuse To Back Down To Stacked Warriors
Golden State got better over the summer, but that didn’t stop others from trying to stop them from repeating as champions
Opening week is finally upon us.
Appropriately enough, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will kick off the 2017-18 NBA season tomorrow night, as will the defending champion Golden State Warriors when they host the improved Houston Rockets.
The clear-cut favorites to win the league title are the ones who have done so two out of the past three years, and rightfully so. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has done a masterful job of assembling a juggernaut. They’ve kept their insanely talented core intact and—aside from Ian Clark and Matt Barnes—haven’t lost any of their key bench pieces to free agency.
In fact, Golden State has added to that dangerous second unit. Jordan Bell was bought from the Chicago Bulls and will bring another Draymond Green-esque impact almost immediately. Nick Young and Omri Casspi were brought in to fill the void of backup wings, which is an improvement at the position anyway. With the same roster as last year and better reserves to give the starters a breather, there’s no reason Steve Kerr and company can’t repeat if they stay healthy.
Knowing what the Warriors are capable of and how well they are set up to truly be a dynasty, there are some league executives out there who are hesitant to make significant moves that could potentially flop against such a powerhouse.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported back in middle June that select teams don’t want to risk a big play because of it. What that basically translates into is: We’re throwing in the white towel until that ball club disbands.
But luckily for fans and for parity’s sake, there was a handful of general managers that refused to take that path. Just looking down the list in the Western Conference, there were organizations that swung for the fences this summer.
The aforementioned Rockets are one of them.Daryl Morey pieced together multiple trades to allow him to land Chris Paul to play next to James Harden and form a dynamic backcourt tandem. Houston also signed a pair of veteran two-way players in Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker to provide depth and defense.
What about the Oklahoma City Thunder? Just when we thought Russell Westbrook’s MVP season was enough to maybe build off, the unthinkable happened. Sam Presti unloaded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana after just one season with the team to add All-Star forward Paul George, who is in a contract year.
That blockbuster move was followed up with another two months later, as Presti decided to deal fan favorite Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to the Knicks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The creation of a Westbrook-George-Anthony big three forms an elite trio that is determined to prove championship worthiness.
Top tier Eastern Conference counterparts did their due diligence as well. The Cavaliers and Celtics are essentially rivals and became trade partners in an attempt to re-tool their respective rosters, in addition to gaining important pieces outside of that.
Boston inked Gordon Hayward to a maximum contract to create a bolstered starting unit alongside Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford until madness happened.
Firstly, Bradley got moved in a swap with the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to address the hole at power forward. After that—with reports of Kyrie Irving’s unhappiness in Cleveland swirling around the basketball universe—Celtics general manager Danny Ainge acted immediately and swung a deal for the All-Star point guard in exchange for his All-Star point guard, a vital member of his team in Jae Crowder and the coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round pick.
It’s almost a brand new squad, but Brad Stevens has a versatile group to work with to try and finally dethrone the conference champions of the last three years.
As for the East’s cream of the crop, the Cavaliers moves are well known because wherever LeBron James goes the spotlight follows. Thomas and Crowder were huge gets for first-time general manager Koby Altman, especially after the outside growing doubt in the franchise’s front office. The rookie executive was also instrumental in signing Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, and Dwyane Wade to veteran minimum contracts.
Rose and Green have plenty of motivation because their critics think they’re washed up, meaning Tyronn Lue won’t have to give them a reason to play their hearts out. Wade simply made the decision to come to Cleveland because he can play with his best friend and potentially add to his collection of championship rings.
Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, and Jose Calderon are also now a part of the roster that all-of-a-sudden is now deep at almost every position. It’s a new flavor for a team that may have only one year left to compete for a title with James’ pending free agency next summer.
Those four teams feel great about their chances to get in the way of the Warriors. It doesn’t stop there though. The West in general loaded up.
The Minnesota Timberwolves executed the first big move of the year when they traded for Jimmy Butler. The Denver Nuggets signed Paul Millsap to provide leadership and a veteran voice in a young locker room full of talent. The San Antonio Spurs lost Jonathan Simmons but brought in a very capable Rudy Gay under-the-radar as Kawhi Leonard’s backup.
Nobody expected the league to completely fold and hand Golden State another championship, but it was surprising (and relieving) to see so many teams have the fortitude to pull off the moves that they did. There was definitely risk involved for some of them, however, one thing is for certain.
The Warriors will not have a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. They will have to go through a rigorous set of teams in the West throughout the regular season and the playoffs.
If any team is up to the task, it’s Golden State. But we’ll see how it plays out starting about 24 hours from now.
See you at tip-off.
NBA League Pass Debuts for 2017-18 Season
NBA League Pass has launched for the 2017-18 season. Basketball Insiders has the details.
The NBA and Turner Sports have launched NBA League Pass for the 2017-18 season, with several new features and pricing options available. NBA League Pass, a subscription-based service, will be available to users across 19 different platforms, from television and broadband to tablets, mobile and a plethora of connected devices.
In addition, an important note: As of Monday, NBA League Pass subscribers who have already purchased their access through a TV provider (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, etc.) are now able to link their account to the NBA’s streaming service at no additional charge. The link to do this can be found here.
Basketball Insiders has you covered with a breakdown of all the new details immediately available. We will also be bringing you a detailed breakdown of certain important technological areas later in the week.
New or improved features of NBA League Pass include:
- Improved video quality for streaming League Pass content developed by iStreamPlanet, a high-level video streaming entity working in partnership with NBA Digital. Included among these improvements are faster delivery time for live feeds, reducing notable lag time present in previous versions. More detail on these video quality improvements will be featured in our breakdown later this week.
- A new premium package that includes continuous in-arena coverage, even during commercials. This allows fans to view team huddles, live entertainment and other venue features that make them feel closer to the experience.
- A season-long virtual reality subscription package via NBA Digital and NextVR, available to all premium and traditional NBA League Pass subscribers (also available to international subscribers and single-game purchasers beginning in week two of the NBA season). Access will be available across Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream and Windows Mixed Reality.
- Coverage of pre-game warmups and other in-arena events.
- Spanish-language video coverage for select games, as well as Spanish-language audio continuing for select games.
- NBA Mobile view will contain a zoomed-in, tighter shot of game action that’s optimized for mobile devices.
Pricing for NBA League Pass has not changed for traditional access, and will remain at $199.99 for the full season. New monthly-based subscriptions are now also available, both for the full package and for individual teams. Full pricing will be as follows:
- Traditional NBA League Pass (full league): $199.99
- Premium NBA League Pass: $249.99
- NBA Team Pass: $119.99
- Single Game Pass: $6.99
- Virtual Reality package: $49.99
- Premium monthly subscription: $39.99
- Traditional League Pass monthly subscription: $28.99
- NBA Team Pass monthly subscription: $17.99
As previously reported by Basketball Insiders, upgrades are also expected on the TV side of NBA League Pass, particularly through Comcast, which has had the largest share of customer issues for this product in recent years. While only a single nightly HD channel was available via Comcast XFINITY League Pass previously, sources tell Basketball Insiders that all games will be available in HD through Comcast’s Beta channel package by the end of November (or earlier).
This Beta package does have limitations, however, including users’ inability to record, pause or rewind games. The package that was available in previous season will continue to be available until (and after) the Beta package is active, and subscribers will get access to both for no additional charge.
Check back with Basketball Insiders later in the week for a full rundown of the technological improvements being made to NBA League Pass.