After the 2021 NBA draft, San Antonio Spurs GM Brian Wright made it clear he would look to add shooting in free agency. Days later, the Spurs did just that by signing free agent forward Doug McDermott to a 3 year, $42 million deal. McDermott is an excellent addition who, as a career 40.7% 3-point shooter, instantly becomes the team's best shooter. He also helps the Spurs address one of their biggest issues.
Doug is coming off a career season in which he averaged a season-best 13.6 points on a blistering 63.5% true shooting in 24.5 minutes per game for the Indiana Pacers. When taking a closer look at his game, it's easy to see what the Spurs saw in him and how dangerous he can be as a member of the Spurs.
Despite often being closely guarded, McDermott was consistently able to get open looks from three via off-ball screens, dribble hand-offs, and trailing in transition. Additionally, he was also very effective inside the arc. In fact, Doug shot an impressive 64.1% on his 5.7 2-point attempts per game last season, with many of his shots coming off of backdoor cuts, drives, or pull-up jumpers.
Those skills should easily translate to San Antonio next season, where they have experience utilizing players like McDermott. Marco Belinelli and Davis Bertans previously played comparable roles for the Spurs, although Doug is a better shooter than Belinelli and has an identical career 3-point shooting percentage to Bertans. However, given the importance of 3-point shooting in today's NBA and his elite shooting ability, he could function as a bigger part of the offense than they ever did.
New team, new role
As a member of the Pacers, Doug's role was limited due to playing behind All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis, however, I expect him to have an expanded role with the Spurs next season. In fact, with DeMar DeRozan now gone, I believe that McDermott is a perfect fit for the starting lineup alongside Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Poeltl.
While the Spurs also have Luka Samanic and Thaddeus Young at power forward, Samanic doesn’t appear ready to start. Furthermore, Young rarely shot threes last season and would likely lead to more spacing issues were he inserted into the starting lineup.
After all, the starting lineup has been plagued by a lack of 3-point shooting for the past few seasons and the addition of McDermott would certainly help in that regard. He also fits well, in theory, with the other Spurs starters. Murray has a knack for finding 3-point shooters, particularly in transition, where McDermott could be a frequent target.
However, Derrick White is arguably the Spurs' best playmaker, particularly in the pick and roll. He could take advantage of the spacing that Doug provides or could find him for open threes when his defender loses track of him. Keldon, on the other hand, isn't quite the shot creator that Murray and White are. That said, his aggressive drives to the basket should be made much easier with Doug stretching defenses as a power forward. This space wasn't available with DeMar DeRozan.
As for Poeltl, who ranked 3rd in the NBA in screen assists last season, he has a knack for freeing up teammates for easier shots. McDermott, who's already excellent at navigating screens, could benefit greatly from playing with such an effective screener. Additionally, McDermott and Poeltl could form an effective dribble-handoff pairing, allowing him to take on a more active role in the Spurs offense rather than just spotting up and being used in pin-downs.
McDermott launching more threes can only be a good thing for San Antonio, considering they've ranked in the bottom five in 3-point attempts in each of the past six seasons. Part of the reason has been personnel, with players like Murray, Johnson, and DeRozan all being low volume 3-point shooters. The other reason appears to be that the Spurs tend to focus on 3-point shot quality instead of quantity, with certain players seemingly encouraged to shoot more than others.
White, for example, attempted nearly 7 threes per game last season. Therefore, McDermott should also be given the green light to shoot threes at a similar rate next season. Given his accuracy, I believe he could cement himself as one of the NBA’s deadliest shooters while also providing the Spurs with a gamechanger.