Doug McDermott knows how it works.
The Bulls used two draft picks to trade for the one-time Creighton scoring machine, acquiring him from Denver as the 11th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Big price to pay. Big expectations to follow.
McDermott’s rookie season? Call it a red-shirt year that he never had in college. The 6-foot-8 forward had to learn a new position, a new way to play defense, the Association’s physicality, and then deal with a minor knee surgery that cost him almost five weeks.
But Year 2 was supposed to be different.
Then came this past January. After a 13-point game against the New York Knicks on New Year’s Day, McDermott had back-to-back game in which he went scoreless. As a matter of fact, he had five games that month in which he took the big goose egg in the box score.
So of course there was fallout.
If McDermott was being judged by himself that would be one thing. But considering the recent misses by the organization’s front office in the draft, it was easy to group him in with Marquis Teague and Tony Snell.
Then came Friday night against Toronto. Finally.
After an afternoon “I believe in you’’ pep talk from coach Fred Hoiberg, McDermott torched the Raptors for a career-high 30 points, shooting 13-for-17, as well as 4-for-5 from beyond the three-point line.
“I feel like it’s a long time coming,’’ McDermott said. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs, and I just stayed with it. Obviously, it’s just one game so I’m not going to get too high on myself, but it’s definitely a good start for my confidence.’’
And a deep breath for Hoiberg.
One of Hoiberg’s priorities coming into this season was build McDermott back up after a rough rookie campaign. It’s been a slow process.
“He did a little bit of everything,’’ Hoiberg said of McDermott’s career night. “He looked like Doug McDermott from his Creighton days.’’
McDermott knows there has to be more of that. While he says he doesn’t think about being a lottery pick these days, he’s also very aware that there are huge expectations on him.
“You just gotta let that number go,’’ McDermott said of being the 11th overall pick. “I don’t even think about it anymore. Guys in my draft class, some are doing really well, some are struggling. I just think it’s too early to tell. I think it takes a few years for guys to get established, and I don’t think about the pick at all.’’
McDermott’s right about one thing: The jury is still out on him, but also the rest of the lottery picks from that class.
No. 3 pick Joel Embiid has been injured, No. 4 pick Aaron Gordon is really good at dunk contests, No. 5 pick Dante Exum has been injured, No. 8 pick Nik Stauskas was traded and has been inconsistent, No. 9 pick Noah Vonleh was a disappointment and traded, and the list goes on.
“To be honest I’m my biggest critic and I’m hard on myself,’’ McDermott said. “Sometimes that carries over to games and I can’t allow that to happen. I’ve got to continue to work. I work my butt off every day, and hopefully it starts paying off.
“I don’t really feel the pressure too much. I feel like I’m playing fine. I know it’s obviously a big stage and there’s a lot expected of me, but I’m going to continue to work and continue to build on this.’’