PUTTING TOGETHER THE PACERS PUZZLE
while playing for New York and Dallas, as well as the number worn by, in his
words, “Pacer legend Fred Hoiberg.”
Given his knowledge of the Pacers, it’s appropriate that McDermott wind up
playing for them, as roundabout a path as it’s been. And given his admiration for
Miller, it’s appropriate that he has modeled his game after the Pacers legend.
Unathletic by NBA standards, as Miller was, McDermott became the 11th pick in
the draft — just as Miller had been — largely because of qualities he shares with
Miller. He’s an uncanny catch-and-shoot 3-point marksman who also scores by
curling off screens for layups, as Miller was. He rarely creates off the dribble,
same as Miller didn’t, and isn’t a great defender, as Miller wasn’t.
Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations, wasn’t seeking
a legendary Hall of Famer when he went shopping for a backup small forward
this summer, he merely wanted someone to add perimeter scoring punch off the
bench. The Pacers were the NBA’s ninth-best 3-point shooting team last season
(.369) but shot six fewer per game than opponents and were outscored by a total
of 387 points behind the 3-point line over the course of the season.
The second unit bears a significant share of blame for that deficit, which is
what attracted the Pacers to McDermott. He’s hit 40.3 percent of his 3-point
attempts over his career. More relevantly, he hit 42.6 percent last year while
splitting time between New York and Dallas. Even more relevantly, the Pacers
hope, he hit 49.4 percent in his 26 games with Dallas at the end of the season.
And, there’s this enticing nugget: he hit 65.2 percent of his corner 3-point
attempts for the Mavericks.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle coached Miller for three seasons as Larry Bird’s
assistant and then for four seasons as the Pacers’ head coach. He knows how
to utilize players the likes of Miller or McDermott, and thereforedevised ways for
McDermott to thrivelike never before in the NBA.
McDermott averaged 9 points while playing 22.9 minutes per game for the
Mavericks. He shot fewer than seven times per game, and his “true” shooting
percentage, which takes into account three-point shots and free throws, was a
“Coach Carlisle did a great job allowing me to move around out there, coming
off screens, coming off pindowns,” McDermott said. “I’m not a guy who needs
the ball in my hands a lot to be successful. I feel like my best strength is moving
without the basketball, and that alone puts pressure on the defense.”
Pacers coach Nate McMillan recently received a text from Carlisle reading,
“you got a really solid player.” He plans to use McDermott much the same
way Carlisle did, but also wants to drive McDermott toward becoming a better
defensive player — just as he did with Bojan Bogdanovic, who came to the
Pacers a year ago with the reputation of a poor defender and became, at the very
least, an average one.
“We’re going to be looking for him to bust up some games on the defensive
end of the floor and help rebound the basketball,” McMillan said. “We tell guys,
‘Do what you do, but there’s some other things that we’re going to be asking you
to do.’ And we’re going to ask him to (defend). I think he’s athletic enough.”
McDermott is on board with that.
“I feel I’ve made strides there, but I feel I can take it to another level,” he said.
“Part of it’s your body. I feel I have a great medical staff here that’s going to find
ways to improve my quickness. And, being around a coach who will spend time
with me to go over things (will help). When you’re with four different coaches in
four years, there’s a lot of different terminology, a lot of different voices you’re
In that regard, McDermott and Miller have absolutely nothing in common. Miller
played 18 seasons for the Pacers, and nobody else. McDermott, at 26 years old,
has played for four teams in four NBA seasons. He was drafted by Denver with the
11th pick in 2015, but traded to Chicago as part of a draft night trade. The Bulls later
traded him to Oklahoma City for the final 22 games of the 2016-17 season, which
enabled him to become friends with Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Oladipo and Sabonis were traded to the Pacers for Paul George on July 6 last
year. Then on Sept. 25, a day before OKC opened training camp, McDermott was
traded to New York in the deal that brought Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder.
The Knicks then traded him to Dallas as part of a three-way deal with Denver,
primarily to acquire point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, in February.
Playing for four teams in four seasons isn’t what McDermott had in mind on
draft night, but he made the most of it.
“I could have hung my head but I looked at it as an opportunity to get better
and I think I played the best basketball of my career,” he said.
He said he had serious interest from three or four teams in free agency, but
had it narrowed to two by the midnight opening of free agency on July 1. He was
thrilled that it worked out with the Pacers, and hopes he can settle in Indianapolis
beyond his three-year contract. He’s most comfortable away from the brightest
lights, having grown up in places such as Fargo, N.D., Cedar Falls, Iowa, and
Omaha, Neb., while his father, Gregg, advanced his college coaching career.
That, along with his acquaintance with Oladipo and Sabonis and his boyhood
affection for the Pacers, nearly makes this move feel like going home.
“I’ve been enough places,” he said. “I feel like being a Midwest kid I fit in really
well with the community here. I can just worry about basketball and just try to
improve my game.
“I just want to feel comfortable.”
WE GROW BASKETBALL HERE INDIANA PACERS 2018-1 9 YEARBOOK