Will McDermott's defense hurt his NBA draft stock?

Tuesday February 18th, 2014

Doug McDermott's defense -- not offense- will strongly dictate where he goes in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Doug McDermott is a scoring machine. Ask the kids at Nebraska, who watched McDermott put 30 on them last month. Or the coaches at Xavier, who were victimized by a 35-point outburst. Villanova, they never want to see McDermott again. In two games this season, McDermott has totaled 53 points against them, including a 39-point effort in a blowout win last Sunday.

McDermott is the best player in college basketball. And really, it's not even close. He's an offensive Michelangelo, lethal from the perimeter -- he's shooting 44 percent from three-point range, the fourth straight season he has shot 40 percent or better from beyond the arc -- with a knack for finding open spaces. A coach's son, McDermott sees the game in slow motion, moving without the ball, analyzing plays as they are happening, taking advantage of every angle. Against 'Nova -- a team that was victimized by McDermott a few weeks earlier, a team that game planned specifically to control him -- McDermott connected on 13 of 17 field goal attempts, including 4-of-6 from three-point range.

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"I think he's as complete a player, and I do not use that term loosely, as complete a player with size as I've ever seen," said Villanova coach Jay Wright. "(At) 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9, there's nothing he can't do. He can take you off the dribble, he's tough as hell guarding, he rebounds, he moves without the ball, he seals. He's the best post player we've played against, and he's the best perimeter player and maybe one of the best passers."

Yes, a productive four-year college career -- highlighted by this season, where No. 11 Creighton has emerged as a legitimate national title contender -- has answered any questions about McDermott at this level.

But will he be a productive NBA player? That's a more difficult question to answer.

At this point, McDermott is being penciled in on draft boards across the league as a lottery pick. Three NBA team executives told SI.com that they believed McDermott would be taken in the lottery, while another had him slotted in the "12-18 range." They love his scoring -- on Sunday McDermott passed Larry Bird for 13th on the NCAA's all-time scoring list -- and cite a diverse offensive repertoire as an indication that he will be able to score at the next level.

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"We know he can shoot, but I think he can post up in the NBA as well," said an NBA assistant general manager. "He uses that Dirk [Nowitzki] one-foot fadeaway and has good length to get it off."

Said another assistant GM, "Shooters can be successful in our league. And this kid can really shoot. He's probably the safest pick out there."

Any questions about McDermott's future in the NBA begin with defense. At 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, McDermott is a man without an NBA position. He doesn't appear to be quick or athletic enough to defend small forwards and doesn't have the size to match up with power forwards. McDermott defenders -- and Twitter is loaded with them -- will point to Kyle Korver or Ryan Anderson, two elite shooters who aren't especially athletic. But Korver has small forward size and enough lateral quickness to be a serviceable defender. And Anderson is a sturdy 6-foot-10 and a solid rebounder.

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"He's a college four-man," former Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy told me on NBC Sports Radio. "Size-wise, you would think he would have to be an [NBA] three-man. I don't know who he is going to be able to guard in the NBA. I don't know if he can guard three's or fours. He'll certainly be an NBA player and a good one, but his ceiling could be a back-up type guy."

None of this is to suggest that McDermott can't be a solid NBA player. The question isn't should he be drafted; it's where should he be drafted. Teams drafting in the lottery are looking for franchise players, or at the very least productive starters. Whereas a team drafting in the back end of the first round will be more than satisfied with a quality reserve.

Think of it like this: Would Denver be happy drafting a solid backup in the low teens? Not as happy as San Antonio would in the high 20's.

Over the next few months McDermott will be among the most polarizing prospects in draft meetings. The results of his combine drills will be dissected and tape of McDermott defending more athletic players will be studied closely. McDermott will be on an NBA roster next season. It remains to be seen what the expectations are going to be for him when he gets there.

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