Heading into the beginning of this offseason, the Chicago Bulls were viewed by many as a team poised to make a huge splash in free agency. With players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all set to test the free agency waters, Chicago was a hot destination to land one of those players. The Bulls were in a good position because, with a move here or there, they could have dumped the necessary cap space in order to acquire a superstar player.
While the Bulls were all-in on luring a top free agent to join the team, they were also busy working the draft. The Bulls entered the June 26 draft with two first-round draft picks, and rumors were flying about what they would do the 16th and 19th picks. The team ultimately decided to trade their two picks to the Denver Nuggets for the draft rights to Doug McDermott, who the Nuggets took with the No. 11 pick.
McDermott solves two immediate needs for the Bulls: shooting and scoring. McDermott was a career 46 percent three-point shooter over his four years at Creighton, including a 49-percent mark during his junior year. In his senior year, McDermott averaged a career-high 26.7 points per game to lead Creighton to the NCAA Tournament.
A little over three weeks removed from the draft, McDermott is now adjusting to life in the NBA against better competition. McDermott scored just 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field in his debut for the Bulls in the Las Vegas Summer League and understands he is going to be a target to defend given his ability to shoot.
“Those guys were just being real physical with me; they weren’t allowing me to get anything,” McDermott said after his first game. “They did a great job. That allowed Tony [Snell] to free up because they were so glued onto me coming off of that screen and he was able to get a lot of great looks.”
McDermott rebounded from that first-game performance by scoring 31 points in his second game and 20 points in his third game. McDermott said he talked to Snell prior to that first game and he told him that once his first shot falls down, everything else will be fine. He was quick to point out what he did wrong during his first game, but added that he’ll work those things out.
“I think in college I guarded all four’s and now I’m going to be asked to guard three’s and two’s and guys on the wing,” McDermott said. “I’m still learning that too so that takes a lot of mental preparation to go out on the floor. It’s all a learning process for me and I think I’ll adjust to it well.”
Fast forward to the middle of July and the Bulls’ pursuit of those top players proved unsuccessful. Despite not scoring big on a top free agent, the Bulls seem to be in a good position with their team. After adding McDermott in the draft, the Bulls signed Pau Gasol, who will step in and be the post-scorer they wanted in Carlos Boozer, but never got. A starting frontcourt with Joakim Noah and Gasol will prove to be a force down low on the defensive side and a frontcourt capable of dishing the ball out to the open shooters. Noah led the league among all centers in assists with 5.4 per game, while Gasol was fourth with 3.4 per game.
“I think it’s huge for everyone,” McDermott said of Gasol joining the Bulls. “He’s so unselfish; he’s seven feet and can really pass the ball so it can only help a guy like me where he’ll be able to find me. All of my buddies texted me, ‘I heard Pau [Gasol] is your teammate’; I didn’t even know that [at the time]. It’s pretty cool, though, they’re doing a good job with the free agents and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
The Bulls put up a league-worst 93.7 points per game last season and were desperately seeking some offense to be able to make it out of the Eastern Conference and compete against the Western Conference. With the Miami HEAT taking a significant step down the East’s hierarchy with the departure of James, the Bulls are now among the favorites to win the East. Adding McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, Gasol and a healthy Derrick Rose, the Bulls may have found all the answers they need. The Bulls’ starting five could feature Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Gasol and Noah with Taj Gibson, Snell, Kirk Hinrich, Mirotic and McDermott as the next guys off of the bench.
The biggest question mark heading into next season will be the health of Rose. Rose was reportedly ready to play had the season started at the end of June and was said to have been playing with explosiveness and speed. While the Bulls’ offensive struggles last season were apparent during the playoffs, the addition of Rose will surely change that.
The last time Rose saw significant playing time during the 2011-12 season, the Bulls’ offense had a top-five offensive rating. It’s clear what a player like Rose will brings to the team if he can remain healthy, but the Bulls have shown they’re capable of winning 40-plus games without him and the additions of McDermott, Gasol and Mirotic are viable offensive options should Rose miss any time next season.
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