McDermott's Shooting is Road-Tested
If there's a player eager to hit the road and take on the gauntlet that awaits the Pacers, it's probably Doug McDermott. The guy, for reasons known to nobody including himself, heats up in opposing arenas.
The Pacers will need all the warmth they can get on the four-game road trip that begins Saturday in Denver and continues in Portland, Los Angeles (Clippers), and Golden State, not to mention the games that remain later this month in Oklahoma City and Boston. Whatever 3-point shooting McDermott can provide will be more than welcome in games against playoff-caliber opponents as the Pacers try to maintain a top-four position in the Eastern Conference.
He's hitting 31 percent of his 3-point shots in home games this season but 49 percent on the road. It all balances out to 40 percent — .401 if you're nit-picking — which is better than many people assume. But it seems like a roundabout way of getting there.
"I don't know," McDermott says. "I usually look at overall and not get too hung up on the home and road."
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McDermott was a better 3-point shooter on the road that at home in college, too (.481-.448) and has been a better distance shooter in opposing arenas throughout his NBA career as well (.418-.388). That's an admirable trait, as most players shoot better in familiar surroundings, but he can think of no reason for it.
Maybe it's just the concept of playing on the road. While playing for Chicago, Oklahoma City, and New York he shot 40 percent in Bankers Life Fieldhouse (6-of-15). All of his shooting percentages, free throws included, are better on the road this season. And, despite playing just 17 more minutes in home games, he has 10 more turnovers than in road games.
Still, it's nothing personal against The Fieldhouse. He says he likes the shooting background there, and has done his best to become familiar with it. For the past couple of months, while his teammates conclude practice by shooting on the St. Vincent Center practice courts, he walks via the underground tunnel with a staff member to shoot in The Fieldhouse whenever the court is laid down.
"I haven't been on a team where the arena is available to shoot in much," he says. "This is so easy, with the tunnel and everything. Just to get extra reps."
Public perception seems to be that McDermott has been a disappointment as a shooter. That might be a reflection of general expectations. He was a lottery pick — 11th overall in 2014 — because of his shooting ability and his pristine form leaves the impression every shot should go in.
Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images
He considers 40 percent his baseline as a 3-point shooter. As long as he's over that, he's generally satisfied. He's currently one of four Pacers above that threshold, joining Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, and Domantas Sabonis (who has hit 8-of-15 3-pointers). Myles Turner (.395) and Wesley Matthews (.393) are close.
"If I'm not shooting 40, I think I'm having a bad year shooting," he says.
McDermott, who signed a three-year contract with the Pacers last summer, has been a consistent threat throughout the season, with just one exception. He hit just 4-of-18 3-point attempts over a seven-game stretch in January. But since missing five games early in February, he's hit 48 percent over the past 13 games.
"People can think what they want, but I'm still being aggressive," he said. "I'm probably not getting enough up, to be honest. I think I can be a little more aggressive."
Pacers coach Nate McMillan agrees. He considers McDermott an essential element of the second unit whether he's hitting shots or not because his mere presence stretches the defense and creates opportunities for teammates.
"He's been fine," McMillan said. "There's times we've had to say be more aggressive. He's a threat. We try to get him open and give him opportunities.
"We try to play through him, both he and Domas in that second unit. Our bench has been stronger this year. A lot of that is due to Doug and his ability to be a threat."
McDermott brings more than shooting, though. He's a capable passer, as he reminded in Thursday's victory over Oklahoma City with a quick, no-dribble pass to Sabonis for a layup in the second half, and his movement without the ball is unsurpassed. If there was a stat for backdoor cuts — and who knows, there probably is — he and Bogdanovic would undoubtedly lead the team.
"The one thing I loved when we were talking about bringing in Bogey and Doug, those guys move without the ball," McMillan said. "There's a lot of guys in this league who don't do that. They complain about standing in the corner. Those guys, you can run some sets with movement because they naturally do that. They don't stand still. They're always searching for those screens. And they're a threat coming off those screens."
McDermott, who played for his father at Creighton University, takes pride in such qualities.
"Sometimes shots aren't going to fall and that's what people judge me on, but my movement out there and my spacing has done a lot for our second unit," he said. "That's what I hang my hat on. As long as I'm affecting winning, that's all that really matters."
Meanwhile, he'll keep shooting — better than people assume, mostly likely.
"Everyone wants to make people happy," he said. "I've tried not to let it affect me because I know there's a lot more shots coming, and I've got 82 of these games. Just stay consistent with my work approach.
"We've got playoffs coming up and that's when people care a little more anyway."
There's good news for the Pacers there, too. McDermott has hit 53 percent (8-of-15) of his 3-point shots in his limited playoff experience with Chicago and Oklahoma City, including 5-of-9 in the road games.
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Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.
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