Doug McDermott watched ten underclassmen ford the stage inside the Barclays Center before he heard his name called. McDermott, the fifth-oldest player taken in the first round, sauntered up to commissioner Adam Silver bright-eyed carrying the poise we’ve grown to expect. Silver was perhaps the only man in the room with a more extensive resume than the Creighton alumnus.
The reigning National Player of the Year didn’t make his high school’s varsity team until he was a junior. He had a six-inch growth spurt that opened the door for college.
Four years later, the Chicago Bulls traded two first round draft picks for McDermott—a move orchestrated to generate cap space and fulfill two gaping holes in Tom Thibodeau’s system: effective scoring and efficient shooting.
McDermott is about to become a rookie in the NBA.
Six of the last seven No. 1 overall picks were one-and-done players; barely in their dorms long enough to unpack family photos. Kenyon Martin was the last four-year player to be taken No. 1 overall—that was 14 years ago. McDermott played 20 more games in college than the last four No. 1 overall picks combined.
Success magnifies obsession; it widens the margins for failure until you’re left with less room than Luke Skywalker in a Death Star’s trash compactor. Throughout last season, and particularly during the lead-up to the draft, scouts had such copious amounts of time to assess McDermott that they forgot he actually has strengths. He’s been talented for so long that the media pigeonholed his traits.
For as long as we’ve had drafts, in any sport, we’ve had those collapsing beneath the weight of expectation. The colloquial term “bust” has been used for decades (see: Kwame Brown, Sam Bowie, etc.).
As is the case with most sports, basketball allows scouts and coaches and writers behind keyboards to organize athletes into positions and categories. We’ve even developed subcategories for these groups (see: Stretch-four, wing ballhandlers, etc.). Soon we’ll have hundreds of ways to classify Mario Chalmers. Former-Creighton star Doug McDermott isn’t helping this predicament; he presents a multi-headed conundrum for coaches.
Despite McDermott being the consensus college player of the year, a three-time all-American, and landing the cover spot on Sports Illustrated, he has consistently faced scrutiny concerning his height, strength, and overall potential at the next level.
Of the many archetypes McDermott has been ensnared by, the most prevalent seems to be “overwhelmingly successful yet undersized four-year college basketball player won’t pan out.” Consider Pervis Ellison the prototype; McDermott is the latest edition.
The shadows of Ellison and Adam Morrison threaten to swallow the Grand Forks native before he sets foot on a professional court, but Doug McDermott is a lighthouse. His resolve has repeatedly been tested and he knows it’ll take more than clouds to break him.
Following are the three most adverse pre-conceived notions of his game as he enters the NBA.