General manager Gar Forman shot 100 percent, 1-for-1, on draft night.
“Forman for a 3-point shooter! It’s good!”
Every year, plenty of NBA general managers lie and say they got the guy they wanted in the draft. This time, Forman was telling the truth.
The Bulls are a team focused squarely on free agency, which begins July 1, with a deadeye pursuit of Carmelo Anthony.
But in a bit of target practice, Forman and the Bulls got their top college quarry Thursday night, trading their two first-round picks for sharp-shooting forward Doug McDermott, who was taken 11th by the Denver Nuggets.
After talking to his agent, the Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein, McDermott said he knew the deal was coming when he put on his Nuggets hat and walked across the stage. He certainly knew the Bulls were interested.
As for the Bulls, Forman’s cries of joy echoed from Deerfield to Ames, Iowa. Sources say Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau even smiled after the trade was completed.
While Thibodeau is known for preaching defense with a religious fervor, he’s well aware the Bulls need scoring help, even if they land Anthony.
The Bulls love McDermott’s all-around game, particularly his ability to create his own shot from various zones.
Forman called him “crafty” with an ability to create shots “off the bounce” or slip inside to the post. While Thibodeau doesn't promise minutes to anyone, the Bulls seem to think McDermott can play his way into the rotation.
“If you’re just viewing him strictly as a shooter, you’re not casting him in the proper light,” Thibodeau said. “Because he’s a lot more than that. We think he’s a complete player. We think he’s capable of playing very good defense.”
McDermott’s defense has been a question mark, but Thibodeau is adept at teaching players how to play his kind of “five-man defense.” McDermott already has consulted with his mentor, fellow Creighton legend and former Bull Kyle Korver, about Thibodeau’s high expectations.
“Kyle said he learned more defensively in two years in Chicago than he had in his whole career,” McDermott said. “He told me to go in there with an open mind, listen to Coach Thibodeau and you’ll be just fine.”
Since John Paxson took over the basketball operations department from Jerry Krause in 2003, the Bulls have had their best success drafting veteran college players from good teams or very mature freshmen, such as Luol Deng and Rose.
A four-year player for his father, McDermott was the best scorer in college the past two years. He flirted with making himself available for the draft last year, and he didn’t have a letdown in his return. He was the consensus college player of the year during his senior season, averaging 26.7 points, shooting 52.6 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range.
McDermott is the fifth-highest scorer in Division I history with 3,150 points and has a career .458 3-point shooter.
“He handled his college career great,” Thibodeau said. “There was a lot of pressure on him and he met all those expectations. I had an opportunity to be around him with USA Basketball last summer, and he more than held his own in that setting.”
There is a natural synergy to this pick. Forman is a former Iowa State assistant coach, and McDermott hails from Ames.
"I'm pretty familiar with their front office,” McDermott said at the draft combine in Chicago. “They're a bunch of guys from Iowa; they all went to Iowa State it seems like. I got a chance to talk to them, and I really like them."
From practices to games, home and away, to USA Basketball camp, the Bulls' brain trust spent so much time stalking McDermott, if they didn’t draft him, he might have had to get a restraining order.
“I’ll tell you a funny story,” Forman said. “John Paxson went to see him, I think it was this year, may have been a year ago, and there was a huge snowstorm. I think he spent a week there. He got to see him play twice, practice four times and he got to know Omaha real well. Our entire staff has seen him in a lot of settings.”
While the Bulls desperately wanted McDermott, they also were looking for a trade partner for the 16th and 19th picks to shave money off next season’s salary cap as the team chases high-priced talent this summer.
But with that in mind, it was curious that well-traveled forward Anthony Randolph was included in the deal. He’s owed $1.825 million next season. Forman said that was the price for trading up. The Bulls will likely look to use his salary in a trade, though they can’t package him in a deal for 60 days, according to league rules. They can trade him straight-up immediately.
Of course, they could always trade McDermott, too, if they had to clear salary space. As you might have heard, the Bulls are going “all in” to land Anthony or Kevin Love.
But while the Bulls pursue Anthony, among others, getting McDermott -- listed at 6-foot-7¾ with shoes and 218 pounds at the NBA draft combine -- addresses the Bulls’ biggest weaknesses. In theory, anyway.
As a team, the Bulls shot 42 percent from the field and 33.3 percent on 3-pointers last season. They were the lowest-scoring team in the NBA, averaging 93.7 points per game without Rose for all but 10 games.
The Bulls’ season shot chart shows they were above league average from only one “hot spot zone” on the court, the left corner 3. They were below average in two zones from the right side and just around league average everywhere else.
"I think I can provide some outside shooting right from the get-go, be able to come off screens and play off their superstars,” McDermott said.
The Bulls also drafted 6-foot-9 Australian power forward Cameron Bairstow out of New Mexico with the 49th pick in the second round. He averaged 20.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in a breakout senior season.