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NBA PM: Doug McDermott Still Finding His Way

Doug McDermott discusses “tough” transition to NBA, Wolves may not trade Corey Brewer, and Nick Young boosts Lakers.

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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.

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.

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.”

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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