Comping Doug McDermott Is Not As Easy As You Would Think

Eric Francis

If you had to pick one former player to compare Doug McDermott with, you would have a hard time finding a guy that represents everything the Creighton junior can do. That is why an ESPN pick for a comp is so interesting.

When the NCAA Tournament ends, my attention usually turns to baseball, hence my penchant for looking at advanced stats and trying to understand better what each basketball player really contributes to the team on the floor.

And the thing about baseball, is that when they look at a player, scouts and other commentators attempt to compare them to another player. And there you have the dreaded comp.

It isn't the end all, be all of analysis obviously, but it can be a quick shorthand and it has its uses.

The thing that brings this all up is that a certain big time website listed a comp for Doug McDermott. Obviously they didn't read our paean to Dougie. They needed to tag him with a name.

But before we get to that, I thought it might be instructive to look at some of the other comps I could find for McDermott hanging out on the web. All I did was a simple Google Search for "Doug McDermott is like." It didn't generate as many results as I would have hoped, but it was information.

Let's start with the weird.

So he has that going for him. But last I looked, Audrey II had a voracious appetite, and yet didn't earn a dime in the NBA.

Then there was the long comparison that the Omaha World Herald did between Larry Bird and McDermott. They dispel any notion that McDermott is anything close to what Bird was back in his college days. I would have to agree, but it is hard to prove.

Such is the state of college basketball statistics that if you try to go back longer than say 1995, it is tough going. For example, this is the season box score from Bird's 1978-79 season. There is a lot there, but there is no indication of how many fouls the team committed, how many turnovers the team committed, or even how many minutes each player appeared on the floor.

That makes it hard to do any kind of real analysis of the data, or comparison between the two.

Let's just say that the World Herald's story convinced me. I think the most telling comparison is this:

(Randy) Eccker joined CU's coaching staff after his playing career and faced Bird as a coach during the 1978-79 season. That year, Eccker said, Bird was 22 but looked and played older than everyone else, with a frame that was fully developed. McDermott, a junior who just turned 21, seems to be still growing into his body and developing as a player.

They don't have the same body or skill set yet. Fair enough, let's move on.

"Doug McDermott is like Nick Collison combined with Antawn Jamison"

So that is pretty high praise. Back when Jamison was in college, he was the top player in college in 1998. I remember sitting in my dorm room and watching his North Carolina teams and dreaming on how great an NBA player he would be at the time -- boy was that misguided. Jamison had some range but not like McDermott. No, a lot of that was based on his play near the hoop, which is not necessarily McDermott's strength.

While he has developed post moves, the above quote tells a better tale about McDermott's ability to play inside. He still relies on his lengthy body to help him make shots that no one should be able to make, such as when he reaches down the lane and around the defender.

That isn't what Jamison did.

That isn't what Collison did either. The Kansas star was even more of a threat around the rim.

And that is where this comp falls down. McDermott has some inside skill, but it is his shooting that really separates him from the pack. He can shoot the three. He can shoot the 15-footer. He just has the range that neither of these other two had.

So that comp kind of falls apart when you consider how much more McDermott can do offensively that isn't within five feet of the basket.

"Doug McDermott is like Keith Van Horn"

OK, now we are getting somewhere. If Jamison made you drool for what he could be as an NBA player, Van Horn made you drool for what he was as a college player.

The big star on a Utah team that found its way deep into the tournament year after year, Van Horn could do it all. This was before anyone had heard of Dirk Nowitzki, and that is exactly the model that Van Horn looked like, albeit with a little less muscle.

Van Horn had range, and he had the post moves. He was a little more polished inside than McDermott, but this is about as close as we are going to get with the tall, lanky white guy comparison.

And that is the important thing here when you talk about comps. You tend to fall into these patterns that you have to compare a guy to a guy with the same body comp, and who just happens to look a lot like the guy you are comparing him to.

Which is why the ESPN comp we alluded to earlier is so rare.

Statistically, McDermott's season is starting to look an awful lot like Glen Rice's senior year at Michigan in 1989.

So that isn't an exact comp. But Glen Rice is a good comparison for McDermott. And this is not saying that Dougie will end up being a star in the NBA for a decade and one of the best shooters of all-time in the League.

It is just saying that this is the best shooting comparison other than Van Horn that I have yet to see.

During his senior year, Rice scored 25.6 points per game, shot almost 58 percent, including over 50 percent from three, and threw in 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists for good measure. McDermott is just a tad bit behind in every category except rebounding.

So how does that measure up in value to his team? Rice played recently enough that we were able to get better numbers than we had for Bird. That meant we could run it through HOOPWAR. The only thing we needed to estimate for the Wolverine star was the number of offensive rebounds that he grabbed. In situations like this we give everyone on the team one-third of their boards on the offensive end.

It isn't exact, but it is the best we could do with the data we were given.

Rice finished the season with a HOOPWAR of 11.6 for his team, meaning he helped Michigan to about one-third of their wins all on his own. His adjusted HW30 score was a 9.5, which is really good.

When I mentioned it to Dr. Geeves, I said something like "He only had a 9.5." and Geeves said "Yeah, only..."

That is not to discount a 9.5. That is a damn good score. It just was lower than I expected it to be. But keep in mind that Rice was not the top player in college basketball that season, he was only the MOP of the NCAA Tournament. Shades of grey, but important here.

McDermott's season has been worth 5.3 wins so far this season, and he is on pace to log an 8.8 HW30, putting him just off of Rice's pace so far this season. And he still has a lot of games against the bottom of the Missouri Valley to help him along. We could be looking at a virtual tie by the end of the season. (FYI, last season, McDermott finished with a 7.2 HW30 and was an All-American. So you do the math this year.)

One more thing to keep in mind is that McDermott is a slightly better defender by our DEF100 score at this point in time. A lot of that is because of rebounding on the defensive end, but it is an important thing to note.

If McDermott gets even hotter shooting than he has been so far, we could be looking at him passing Rice in value before long.

It could end up being a great comp for his overall skill based on shooting and defense. And it could be the last one that you would pull out of a hat.

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