Bulls forward Doug McDermott entered Monday’s game against the Kings late in the first quarter and promptly buried back-to-back three-pointers. Chicago’s fourth leading scorer since the all-star break finished the quarter with nine points on three shots in less than five minutes. None of this was particularly surprising; the second-year player has blossomed into the scoring threat Chicago ownership hoped he’d become.
Adding 16 off the bench in the team’s win — he has scored at least 16 in more than half of the team’s games since the break — McDermott raised his post-all-star break scoring total to 245 points, more than double his production during his rookie campaign.
All isn’t well in Chicago, mind you: The Bulls are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. Rookie Coach Fred Hoiberg’s outfit is 36-33, tied with the Detroit Pistons for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, and is allowing 102.9 points per 100 possessions, the most the team has allowed since the 2008-09 season. As was the case when Tom Thibodeau helmed the operation, seemingly every player on the roster has been beset by injury on a near-nightly basis. Basketball may be a game fraught with injury, but Chicago has perfected the art of self-immolation.
There has been very little consistency for a team desperately craving it, but McDermott has been a steady buoy on the offensive end since the break, helping the Bulls in the team’s final sprint toward the postseason. With the franchise’s expectations being at least a spot in the playoff bracket, Chicago should continue looking to McDermott for a much-needed scoring punch.
In his first year under Hoiberg, McDermott is seeing exponentially more opportunities — both a product of his scoring prowess and improved health.
“Coach Hoiberg, he’s good for all of us, but he’s been really good for me this year just because he played in the league, was a shooter, went through a lot of ups and downs in his career,” McDermott told ESPN.com’s Nick Friedell. “So I can kind of relate to him a little more. It’s been good, but I still got to build on every game and each game’s a challenge.”
The Creighton alumnus has developed into a catch-and-shoot marksman over the past 17 games, contributing better than 14 points per contest on a team-high true shooting percentage of 61.8. He ranks fifth in the league in three-point percentage, cashing in on 43.4 percent of his looks, the 10th highest clip in franchise history and the best mark since fellow Creighton alumnus Kyle Korver drilled 43.5 percent of his looks in 2011-12.
Flying around picks and meeting opposing forwards at the rim, his game has evolved from his collegiate years, in which he typified the old man, play-with-a-large-shirt-under-your-jersey game. His low-post acumen has transformed into an offensive arsenal that includes step-backs, highlight-reel dunks, three-pointers and floaters.
Chicago is finding optimal ways to utilize his quick-trigger prowess since the break, too. While more than 82 percent of his attempts this season have come less than two seconds after he touches the ball, McDermott and his teammates have done a better job of creating more space for his looks since the break.
He’s scoring from just about everywhere, shooting a clip better than league average on total shots, above-the-break three-pointers, mid-range jumpers and three-pointers from both corners, scoring 1.09 points per shot.
Should Chicago draw Toronto, currently the No. 2 seed in the East, in the opening round of the playoffs, McDermott should have no difficulty continuing his stellar play; in three games this season, he’s averaging 19.7 points per contest against the Raptors, his highest average against any opponent.
It’s no coincidence that Chicago is 8-5 this season when McDermott scores at least 16 points, or that the team is 5-1 when he drills at least four three-pointers. He is now a critical cog in Hoiberg’s system, one Chicago needs to maximize for a playoff run.