The NBA is a league of “more”. More skills, more star players, more athleticism, more defense, more leadership, more shooting. Really, what every player and every team wants, for the most part, is more of everything. The more a player can do, the more worth they have to their team. The more a team can do, the higher they can climb in the standings.
So that’s what Doug McDermott, and the Thunder, are determined to do. With the addition of Paul George, Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton, the Thunder checked a lot of those aforementioned boxes with its swing-for-the-fences off-season. Filling in the seams of those big puzzle pieces that are inserted into the mix will be players like McDermott.
Skilled and an accurate marksman from behind the arc, McDermott seems destined to be an excellent floor spacer to provide George and Russell Westbrook with the room to operate in the middle of the floor. But NBA defenses are tough, and they know who to guard and where to be. Each player like McDermott has to attack their summer regimen, and find ways to both improve their core strengths and also work to limit their weaknesses.
“I try to add something each summer because I don’t want to stay the same player,” McDermott explained. “I feel like I can still get a lot better.”
In McDermott’s case, he feels he can get stronger, get quicker laterally and improve his body to reach higher levels athletically. All of that would improve his defense, which will be requirement for him to spend long stretches on the floor with the Thunder.
The other end of the floor, however, is his hallmark. He shot 36.2 percent from three last season in 22 games with the Thunder, including 53.8 percent in five postseason games. For his career, he’s a 39.4 percent shooter from behind the arc, a perfect weapon for drive-and-kick chances from Westbrook.
This upcoming year, however, he’ll need to be a more dynamic threat. With Westbrook and George on the floor, oftentimes McDermott may get a smaller defender matched up onto him. Taking advantage of those opportunities with a post up is another way for McDermott to punish a mismatch. He does have a history, after all, of being a dominant frontcourt player at the high school and collegiate level.
When hard closeouts come his way, McDermott wants to be able to catch and go off the dribble, either to finish with a floater or layup or to make a play for the next man. And beyond that, McDermott showed flashes last season of being a major threat when coming around screens and sprinting from spot to spot on the floor and making his defender chase him.
“I’m just more than a spot-up shooter. I know I can move without the ball, and I think that just puts more pressure on them, and it can open up more things for everyone out there,” McDermott said.
Much of McDermott’s role will be decided by matchups, the game flow and what the team needs during a given rotation. Part of that will be the position McDermott plays. Typically cast as a small forward, McDermott recognized during the Thunder’s first round playoff series against the small-ball Houston Rockets that he can also utilize some of his frontcourt past to be a stretch power forward when required. If he can hold up physically on the defensive end at the four and stay nimble enough while at the three, McDermott could be a nice tool for Head Coach Billy Donovan to utilize when he sees fit.
“The way the league is trending, it’s getting smaller with a lot of small ball and guys that can really spread the floor regardless of their position,” McDermott noted. “I feel like I’m just a basketball player.”
At the end of the 2016-17 postseason, McDermott disclosed his plans for the offseason – he’d be in Oklahoma City working out with the Summer League roster, get in some work on his own, travel a bit and spend some time with family and friends.
“I’m excited after talking with Coach Donovan,” McDermott said. “We’ve got a great facility here, and it’s a great city, too, so I plan on bouncing around a little bit, having some fun, but also coming here ready to work.”
A native Mid-Westerner, the North Dakota-born, Iowa-bred McDermott is comfortable in Oklahoma. He’s been spending his summer trying to round out his game, and sharpen his body. In a month, he’ll get to put it all to the test with a re-vamped Thunder squad.