His official introduction as the Bulls’ first-round draft pick was a bit overshadowed by the beginning of free agency later Monday night, but Doug McDermott ended up exactly where he wanted to be: Chicago.
“I had no idea, to be honest. I knew they were interested. I worked out for a couple different teams and I actually didn’t work out here,” the 6-foot-8 small forward explained Monday at the Berto Center. “So I was pretty open to what was going to happen. I had no idea, but this was the spot I definitely wanted to be at throughout the whole process.”
While the 11th overall pick in last week’s NBA Draft, the national player of the year, three-time consensus All-American and fifth all-time career scorer in college basketball claimed he didn’t know where he would be selected, it seems that McDermott, who is represented by Chicago-based agent Mark Bartelstein and was based in Chicago during the pre-draft process, was almost destined to wear a Bulls uniform. More than fate, however, intervened on draft night, as the Bulls traded the 16th and 19th picks, to acquire the Creighton sharpshooter.
“We were very fortunate to put ourselves in a position where we could move up to get Doug with the 11th pick,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “We’ve talked about Doug’s ability to shoot the basketball and how we think he’s a fit with the players that we have, but also that his game is so much more than just shooting. He’s a versatile player. He can play inside and out. He’s got a very high basketball I.Q. and I just think he fits the makeup and the character of what we’ve got going, the culture that we have here with the Bulls.
“Doug, we followed all four years and like I said the other night, we had seen him in a lot of different situations. We had seen him in tough, hostile environments on the road. We’ve been to practices at Creighton, seen him there. Obviously not only Tom [Thibodeau, the Bulls’ head coach], but some of our scouting staff saw him last summer at USA Basketball. So he’s a guy we’ve followed very closely.”
McDermott was one of two college players to participate in USA Basketball’s Select Team mini-camp in Las Vegas last summer, so Thibodeau got to see him up close and personal. While the coach was observing him, McDermott also took home a few lessons.
“Just going against those guys, the NBA guys, just gave me a lot of confidence going into the season. I was able to play against some of the best players in the world, so just that alone really helped me going into my senior year,” he said. “It was great. I learned a lot from Coach [Thibodeau]. There was two courts. One court, they were doing defensive drills. On one court, they just did a lot of putting in new [offensive] sets and stuff, and of course, he had defense. So we did a lot of guarding pick-and-rolls, just doing a lot of different coverage stuff.”
Being a four-year college player, McDermott isn’t seen as having the same potential as some of his younger counterparts, despite his accomplished college career. But the Iowa native believes his experience will help him make the transition to the next level.
“It was a really tough decision. I was torn between what to do, but ultimately, I’m glad I made that decision now that I’m sitting here. But I think I just got so much better that last year, just matured,” McDermott explained. “I feel like I’m ready right from the get-go. I played four years, unlike a lot of the guys who maybe went higher in the draft. But I feel like that’s helped me.
“I think that will adjust right away. I feel like I’m a great shooter. I can do it in a lot of different ways. I’m not just a standstill shooter. So I think that’s going to translate well and it’s been a little bit of an adjustment going deeper [from the NBA’s three-point line] with the new [NBA] balls, but I’m starting to get used to it a lot more,” he continued.
“My ability to shoot the ball and move without the ball, and just be able to fit into a team. I just feel like I’m a great teammate. I’ll do whatever they ask. I’ve got to get better defensively. I think everyone does. This is a perfect spot to improve because they’ve been so great defensively and I’ve got a lot to learn.
“There’s a lot of motivation. The chip’s never coming off my shoulder, no matter what situation I’m in. I’m just a competitor. I’m so excited to bring that to this team and really excited to get started."