Indiana Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard recently sat down with NBA.com’s Mark Montieth for a Q&A about this upcoming season.
During the interview, Pritchard mentioned that one of Indiana’s newest acquisitions, Doug McDermott, was underrated as a scorer and talked about the prospect of using him in a high-powered version of the Pacers this upcoming season.
Since signing with the Pacers to a three-year deal worth $22-million on July 1, the reception around McDermott has been mixed.
Montieth asked Pritchard what he saw in McDermott that others may not.
“For me, McDermott can be an elite player away from the ball with his movement and cutting. He’s got that old-school Jim Paxson kind of game, where’s he constantly moving. That’s an offense unto itself. In my mind, I picture him moving and occupying defenders’ minds, and then you’ve got a two-man game of Tyreke and Domas on one side and Doug coming off screens. You have to dial into that. If you’re not dialed into Doug, he’s going to shoot and we want him to shoot a lot. He shot 48 percent from three with Dallas late in the season. If he can give us anything like that…”
One thing no one can argue about with Dougie McBuckets is that the guy can shoot. He is a career 40.3 percent three-point shooter. And like Pritchard mentions, McDermott hit 48.9 percent of his threes in his 26 games with the Mavericks.
McDermott undoubtedly carries a gravity as a shooter, one that defenders must pay attention to.
He may also be an underutilized cutter—something else Pritchard hinted at. Last season, he only ran cuts 7.5 percent of the time he was on the court but averaged 1.25 points per possession in these actions.
If McDermott comes into Indiana shooting the lights out, then anyone guarding him will need to smother him, which will make his cutting game that much more effective.
Playing both Bojan Bogdanovic and McDermott together could force teams to double Oladipo with a big rather than a guard or wing—otherwise, you’re leaving open two 40 percent shooters from deep.
Montieth also asked Pritchard about how McDermott’s being used in Dallas will influence the way Pacers Head Coach Nate McMillan will use him.
Pritchard salivated at the idea of McDermott running the break alongside his ultra-athletic teammates:
“I thought the way Rick (Carlisle) used him in Dallas, getting him in movement, pin-downs, spacing at times … and he’s a sneaky runner. Ten years ago everybody ran for layups. Now everybody runs for corner threes or angle threes. I think Nate’s going to have to look at some things, whether they’re running for threes or for layups, too.”
The biggest knock on McDermott throughout his career is his poor defense. And while advanced stats for defense can be flawed, they prove what the eye test suggests: he is a career -2.3 box plus-minus player.
The Pacers ranked 12th in defensive rating last season. Allowing McDermott to play heavy minutes for this Indiana group could push them further outside the top ten rather than bring them into the ranks of the elite.
Granted, Pritchard is not thinking so hard about regular season success. Rather, his mind is still wrapped around the Pacers’ defeat in the first round against the Cleveland Cavaliers:
“… We needed shooting in that second unit. We needed it desperately against Cleveland (in the playoffs). When they took Victor out of the pick and roll by doubling it, we needed another playmaker and we needed another guy who can shoot it. Doug can really light it up if he gets open and sets his feet.”
Of course, playing McDermott in the playoffs could give opponents someone to pick on until he’s run off the court. Why wouldn’t Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, or J.R. Smith set screens for LeBron James until McDermott found himself stranded on an island against the league’s best player?
McDermott has limited experience in the playoffs. Two years ago, he played six games for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. He shot well from deep on limited attempts (7/13), but again his advanced numbers pointed to a poor performance on the defensive end. He held a -3.8 box plus-minus.
However, Pritchard is confident that his coaching staff and McDermott will work to improve on that side of the ball:
“…And the executive staff and our coaching staff, we’re about defense here. We have to score points, but we watch the defensive side of the ball in a league that’s about scoring right now. I have a lot of confidence that Doug can become a better defender, especially a better team defender. But he’s going to have to work at it.”
This could be the season McDermott proves he is a more complete player.
In the questions Montieth threw at him, Pritchard appeared excited for the road to come in Indiana with his new deadeye shooter.
One thing that came through in Pritchard’s interview was that he believes Indiana is a place where players can go to maximize their talents:
“It’s interesting because any time you look at a player … when we did the trade of Paul (George) for Victor and Sabonis, the level of their production value wasn’t equal. Paul was (better). But sometimes you say, ‘Can we help him maximize what his talent level is?'”
Clearly, Pritchard and the Pacers answered yes to this question when they signed Dougie McBuckets.