'Bright future' in NBA for Creighton's McDermott

'Bright future' in NBA for Creighton's McDermott
June 12, 2014, 6:15 pm
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WALTHAM, Mass. — It should come as no surprise that Doug McDermott made a ton of shots during his workout with the Boston Celtics on Thursday.

"He earned his nickname, (Dougie McBuckets)," quipped Austin Ainge, Boston's director of player personnel. "He made a lot of them today. The guy's a great shooter."

Among the shots made were a couple of impressive dunks, the kind of plays that McDermott has to show he can make in order to solidify his status as a lottery (top-14) pick.

After hauling in just about every player of the year accolade this past season, the biggest concern with McDermott at the next level has to do with his athleticism and lateral quickness.

He surprised many at the NBA pre-draft combine when his vertical leap measured a solid 36.5 inches which was better than comparable-sized forwards such as Duke's Rodney Hood (36 inches) and N.C. State's T.J. Warren (35.5).

And McDermott's lane agility time of 11.10 seconds at the pre-draft combine was second-best (C.J. Fair, 11 seconds flat) among small forwards tested.

"I feel I can move a lot better than people give me credit for," McDermott said. "I'm a little more athletic as well."

And while much of his shot-making is about finding the right angles, McDermott wants to prove that he's a more all-around scoring threat than many have labeled him as being.

"People know I can shoot," he said. "But I feel I can shoot off one or two dribbles."

Showcasing more athleticism is huge for McDermott who finished his career at Creighton as one of the NCAA's all-time scoring leaders with 3,150 points.

And while there's no question there's a spot in the NBA for a player with McDermott's talents, where that place will be remains to be seen.

At 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, McDermott is going to have to play both forward positions, with each posing a different challenge for him.

When he has to guard small forwards, keeping them in front of him will be an issue. And when matched up with NBA power forwards, he doesn't have the strength right now to keep them from having their way with him around the basket.

Ainge envisions McDermott playing more small forward in the NBA after having played almost exclusively at the power forward position in college.

"Anytime that transition is going on, you worry about defending the perimeter," Ainge said. "I thought he did a good job today. He's more athletic than people give him credit for."

McDermott's game has drawn some comparisons to a young Larry Bird who like McDermott, was a small-college star.

The comparisons only grew after Sports Illustrated had McDermott on the cover in March along with two cheerleaders, striking the same pose as the iconic SI cover shot of Bird in 1977.

McDermott said he thought the folks at SI "were crazy" when they first approached him with the cover shot idea. But after giving it some thought, he decided to go through with it.

"I'm glad I was the one chosen to do that," McDermott said. "There's never gong to be another Larry Bird. But it was cool to have a tribute to him with that cover."

McDermott added, "There's just never going to be another one. It's good to have a guy like that to look up to, all these young guys, myself included. That's the best of the best right there. Him, Magic (Johnson), Michael (Jordan), so you can't compare guys to those three."

But McDermott acknowledges there are facets of Bird's game that he tries to incorporate into what he does on the floor.

"We're each our own player," McDermott said. "People get caught up in the comparisons. Your height, your weight, what you look like. People need to focus, 'what can this guy bring to the table?"

Ainge saw plenty of Bird growing up.

His father Danny, the Celtics' president of basketball operations, played on a pair of championship teams with Bird.

The younger Ainge has heard the comparisons.

"That's pretty tough," he said. "Larry obviously one of the best ever. But Doug is a good player, had a good (college) career. I know he'll make shots at the NBA level. He has a bright future."