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Sliding Doors In Denver

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”

-Joseph Campbell

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Was the Doug McDermott trade worth it for the Nuggets? This is a question I spend an irresponsible amount of time going over in my head. Before I drag you down the wormhole with me, some background. Doug McDermott holds the title of most field goals scored, and the most points ever scored in a college basketball career. McDermott racked up a cool 3,150 points in 4 seasons at Creighton which is roughly 22 points per game. Meanwhile, Jusuf Nurkic averaged 1.8 points per game as he bounced around the euro leagues before being drafted. Gary Harris also put up a handy 14 points per game. So if we’re talking about points per game, Dougie Mcbuckets as he’s known, (I wonder why) has these guys more than covered.

McDermott’s primary function was a scorer at the college level, and in his transition into the NBA that role hasn’t changed. Harris’s role, especially in college was more as a defensive stalwart. It was only just this past season that Garris (Gary Harris) started to expand his repertoire of backdoor cuts and layups.

That’s not to say Gary didn’t shoot otherwise. He nailed 35% of his 3 point attempts in his last year at Michigan state, but more importantly was able to maintain a field goal percentage of 50.7% while doing so.

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Harris still has a lot of work to do if he’s going to become an established two-way player because he again only scored 35% of his 3 point shots last season. Harris shows a lot of promise for the future if he can make that jump, and become a reliable offensive threat from all over the court.

Jusuf Nurkic was a bit of an enigma when the Nuggets drafted him. He didn’t get that much playing time over in Europe because of his youth and the fact that he would get into foul trouble early. However in 2014, the year he was drafted, FIBA crowned him the young European player of the year.

From there Nurkic’s story tells itself, he burst onto the scene amidst a seven-game win streak with his trash talking and blocking abilities. Hailed as the Nuggets saviour, Nurkic struggled towards the end of his first season with injury when then interrupted most of the last campaign

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From what we’ve seen of Nurkic, it is clear he is extremely talented. So far this preseason Nurkic has averaged a lazy 16 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes, if he can carry that form into the season he is going to have an outstanding season.

McDermott hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in his two seasons, scoring just the 9.4 points per game from 23 minutes in the past season. However with the players surrounding him on the Chicago Bulls’ roster, he wasn’t a priority for minutes, or and when he was on the court, he wasn’t much of a presence with just a 17% usage rate even though he mainly played with the second unit.

Some players find it hard to adapt to the NBA straight from college, and it looks like McDermott has struggled, he will look to prove his worth next season. He has had a mixed preseason, but playing alongside Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo who are all creative playmakers, McDermott will start to show his real potential this year

All 3 of these players play different roles, at different positions. Harris is a shooting guard, McDermott a small forward and Nurkic a big burly centre. However, that could be a key reason why the Nuggets should have kept McDermott.

Take a close look at the Nuggets’ depth and the players the Nuggets have at each position. The timeline for contending doesn’t quite come together. In a couple of years time, when the Nuggets are hopefully competing for a ring, Danilo Gallinari will no longer be in his prime. Neither will Wilson Chandler. That leaves a hole at small forward that McDermott is suited to fill.

Doug would be hitting his prime along with the rest of the Nuggets’ core and could be such a valuable scorer. The Nuggets lack a go-to scorer. There’s no one to get the buckets at the end of the shot clock. The closest they have is Gallo, who as I said will no longer be in his prime by the time Mudiay, Nurkic, Jokic and the rest of the young guns come into theirs. McDermott could have been that guy. Arguably the best college basketball scorer ever, if there were 5 seconds left on the clock and the Nuggets needed a 3, I would feel comfortable with the ball in his hands.

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The video above shows what Dougie is capable of when he’s in form. In my eyes, McDermott projects to be a Kyle Korver like rocket launcher from distance. That could have been a critical component for the Nuggets over the next couple of seasons.

The depth is also where there are problems with Nurkic and now Harris. With Jokic now the number one centre, Nurkic’s job security isn’t quite what it used to be. Unfortunately, if he doesn’t fit with the rest of the team, there will come a point when the Nuggets organisation has to pick between the young centres, and it looks more likely that Nurkic will be departing rather than Jokic.

Harris also has players trying to usurp his starting position. Mike Malone has said for now that Harris is the starting shooting guard, but with his injury, Jamal Murray could prove to be a better starting option. There is a distinct possibility that in a few years, neither of these players may even be on the roster.

In the end, Doug McDermott could have made a great Denver Nugget; however, Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris are already there. Over the last two seasons, some Nuggets fans, myself included, have come to love Harris cutting through defences, getting to the basket and initiating fast breaks with his tight D. We’ve come to adore Nurkic’s trash-talking and confident manner when he blocks whoever is in front of him. Doug McDermott will be a great scorer but does that outweigh the value of two other players? Ask yourself this, Nuggets fans, would you have rather have Doug McDermott?

I’d have Harris and Nurkic any day.


By Tim D’Elia