By Cody Westerlund-
DEERFIELD (CBS) — As introductory press conferences are wont to provide, there were a host of platitudes doled out Monday as the Bulls welcomed first-round draft pick Doug McDermott to Chicago along with second-rounder Cameron Bairstow at the Berto Center.
Described as a down-to-earth guy with a quality work ethic, McDermott’s the type who “fits the make-up and the character and the culture that’s been created here,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. A coach’s son, McDermott credited his father, Creighton coach Greg, for steeling him with tough love and teaching him the nuances of the game from a young age.
And as a mid-major player who was overlooked by an array of college coaches – including initially by Greg, who while at Iowa State informed his son it was probably best to go elsewhere, before Greg himself left for Creighton with Doug following – McDermott was sure to emphasize that, “The chip’s never coming off my shoulder regardless of what situation I’m in.”
These would all be correct, but they’d also be missing the main point.
The Bulls paid a hefty price – the No. 16 and No. 19 picks – for Doug McDermott not because of his attitude but because they believe the 6-foot-8 forward can fill it up, and that’s what they need more than ever. It’s also for that reason McDermott believes he couldn’t have landed in a better situation.
“This was the spot I definitely wanted to be at throughout the whole process,” McDermott said.
Regardless of whether the Bulls land Carmelo Anthony in free agency, they’re going to look to the 22-year-old McDermott for some scoring punch. It’s his gift, having scored 3,150 career points in college, the fifth-most all time, with a nearly 46 percent 3-point clip. He averaged 26.7 points last season when he was the consensus national player of the year as a Bluejay senior.
Notably, McDermott provides Chicago another player who’s comfortable with the ball in his hands. He was the most polished all-around offensive player in the draft, equally adept at knocking down 3-pointers and curling off screens as he is at posting up or finishing with either hand in the lane.
McDermott won’t be a prototypical creator, but Chicago’s hope is his ability to finish can help ease a burden on Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah – and anyone else the franchise adds in free agency.
“There’s a lot of motivation,” McDermott said of the faith Chicago has shown in him.
Lost in McDermott’s collegiate accomplishments was how he achieved so much. He rarely did it the easy way. Surrounded largely by mid-major talent at Creighton, McDermott was the focal point of every defense for three-plus years.
He didn’t have the luxury of space, a development that led to him being more of a complete scorer.
“Doug didn’t get many open shots in college,” Greg said. “He had to work for everything he got, and a lot of his 3-point shots were catch and they had to be gone, because he didn’t have much space. I think Derrick’s ability to create things off the dribble for himself and his teammates is going to allow Doug to get some open shots. When he gets open shots, more often than not he’s going to knock them down.
“Besides being able to shoot, he’s added that shot fake and ability to get to the basket. He’s very creative scoring off both feet and with both hands as he gets in the lane. From an offensive standpoint, I think he can make an immediate impact.”
The biggest challenge for McDermott will come defensively, where his lateral quickness will be tested and where the Bulls run a fairly complex system in herding foes to less efficient areas of the floor, one that takes all five players doing their job. While the Bulls gave no hint Monday toward how many minutes McDermott will receive, after hearing coach Tom Thibodeau speak, you couldn’t help but think an expanded role hinges on his defensive development.
“It’s a big adjustment,” Thibodeau said. “The first step is to come in, and you have to learn the system. And then you have to learn the NBA game. You have to learn your teammates, and you have to learn your opponents. So there’s a big learning curve.
“You go step-by-step. The first step is to become a great practice player.”
That’s where McDermott was headed by mid-afternoon Monday – to the Berto Center practice court, to get the journey started on a day that Greg called a “dream come true” for his son.
“I’ll do whatever they want me to do, whether it’s off the bench, starting, whatever,” McDermott said. “But I feel like I’m ready right from the get-go. I played four years (in college), unlike a lot of the guys that went higher in the draft. I feel like that’s helped me. I went through a lot of adversity and seen just about everything on the college floor for four years.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.