The new NBA is focused around ball-penetration through quickness and a polished perimeter jump shot to keep defenses honest. Doug McDermott is the kind of player that keeps defenders honest in a halfcourt situation. Every time I see him, I can’t help but think of Wally Szczerbiak at a power forward position.
In terms of size, Doug McDermott has average power forward size at best. Listed at 6’8″, with a wingspan just longer than that, he has to compensate for paint play with guard skills. While he’s not the most explosive athlete on the floor, he demonstrates high IQ and has adequate strength in his lower base to maintain position. He may never be an elite shotblocker or elite rebounder, but he doesn’t lack for energy and activity.
Athletically, he may be perceived as average. He has just enough vertical ability to finish with a dunk. He has just enough quickness to slide behind defenses. He is just fast enough to finish plays in transition. Usually at the NBA level, power forward positions make up for athleticism with wingspan. Great power forwards tend to have both qualities. Defensively this may become an issue, as he will be outsized by opposing power forwards, but doesn’t demonstrate the lateral quickness to defend pick and roll situations and switch. He’ll need help defensively, but he is usually in good position and doesn’t foul the opposition too often.
Offensively, he is a gifted player. Anyone recall how Rip Hamilton and Reggie Miller utilize screens? McDermott utilizes screens in the same way. He is remarkably efficient in terms of spot up shooting, curls into the paint, and makes a high percentage of shots in the paint. What he lacks in strength, he uses basketball IQ. He’s able to put defenders out of position and use his perimeter shooting and footwork for flip shots in the key to maintain efficiency. He’s an incredible finisher around the hoop, compensating athleticism for crafty shots in the paint. Coaches will love how he’s able to seal defenders with his footwork and use a soft touch around the paint to finish plays.
Defense is a different issue altogether. It helps to have physical tools in terms of quickness, agility, size, and wingspan to develop into a solid NBA defensive player. McDermott’s best quality on defense is his motor, or activity level. He is rarely caught out of position and knows how to put his team in good position for team help. Strength can be worked on at the NBA level, and perhaps he can develop a post base there. In terms of quickness or vertical ability, he may have issues against face up power forwards who are explosive at the rim. Guys like Blake Griffin rip Pau Gasol around the rim despite Gasol’s 7’6″ wingspan. The trouble is, McDermott doesn’t have that wingspan either.
As mentioned earlier, I liken McDermott to Wally Szczerbiak at the power forward slot. Both have incredible touch on the basketball, a tremendous jumpshot, and use screens to generate offense. Defensively, Szczerbiak had issues at the NBA level, so he compensates by spacing his defenders, usually perimeter players, and gave up the jumpshot. McDermott will be doing this from a power forward slot, a position more in turn with physical paint play. It’ll take the right kind of team to use his talents most effectively, but if guys like Jared Dudley can look that great for the Phoenix Suns, imagine getting a guy with an already polished jumpshot into the league.