Philadelphia 76ers: Doug McDermott is the ideal MLE signee

The 2014 NBA Draft was weird.

Of the top-10 players selected in the first round, only one – Joel Embiid– is still with the team that drafted him, and for a time, his status as a perpetual scratch left some wondering if he’d ever touch an NBA court, period.

And outside of Philly’s favorite football fan? Yeah, the rest of that crew has been borderline disastrous to near Anthony Bennett-levels.

The best player of the remaining bunch is Julius Randle, who has finally developed into a viable All-Star caliber forward while in his third team in four seasons. After being allowed to walk in free agency by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018, Randle has developed into a reliable 21 and 10 guy for both the New Orleans Pelicans and the New York Knicks.

There’s also Marcus Smart, the Boston Celtics’ do-it-all non-shooting guard. He’s an All-Defensive team stalwart with game-changing potential no doubt but he’s not really a good enough scorer to be a reliable two guard and doesn’t really run an offense well enough to reliably play the one, which is bad news considering Kemba Walker was just shipped out of town alongside a future first for Al Horford.

But outside of those two? Well, there’s Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins – who had to be traded alongside multiple picks to procure D’Angelo Russell from the Golden State Warriors – and five other players who have played for a combined 26 different teams over the last half-decade and change.

Sidebar: Yes, there were plenty of good players selected in the 2014 NBA Draft, most notably Nikola Jokic, T.J. Warren, Clint Capela, Zach LeVine, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Kyle Anderson, but the top-10 specifically looks like one of the worst classes in recent memory.

So, as many a member of 2014’s draft class becomes either eligible for a new contract this summer or find themselves available via trade, the Philadelphia 76ers shouldn’t be all too eager to acquire one of Joel Embiid’s lottery compatriots, right? To paraphrase the great Lee Corso, not so fast, my friends, while I personally wouldn’t be going out of my way to sign a player like Elfrid Payton, Noah Vonleh, or Shabazz Napier, there is a sharpshooting combo forward who would look darn good in a red, white, blue, and sometimes black jersey this fall who has been linked to the Sixers for quite some time now.

The Philadelphia 76ers need to use their MLE on a viable offensive forward.

At 1:20 AM on July 27th, 2014, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell made a tweet that will seemingly live on forever in the lexicon of Philadelphia 76ers’ history.

What? You don’t recall this hallowed tweet? Well, read on, for you are in for an absolute treat.

See what I mean? My goodness, that one never gets old.

Now, in hindsight, selecting Joel Embiid third overall was the best decision of the Sam Hinkie-era. He’s transcended his initial draft position, become a supermax contract-eligible player on one of the Eastern Conference’s premier squads, and finished second to his draft classmate, Nikola Jokic, in 2021 MVP voting.

And as for Doug “Dougie McBuckets” McDermott? Well, his career hasn’t been quite as prolific, but he’s certainly established himself as a viable offensive weapon for teams looking for 3s out of their frontcourt.

Initially selected by the Chicago Bulls by way of the Denver Nuggets 11th overall, McDermott has played for five different teams over the last seven years – the Bulls, the OKC Thunder, the New York Knicks, the Dallas Mavericks, and the Indiana Pacers – and has remained good enough to be constantly in demand but not quite good enough to retain long-term.

Could that change heading into 2021? Could the Pacers re-sign McDermott to a second contract and keep utilizing him as their top offensive forward coming off the bench?

Sure, anything’s possible, but the chance of that happening took a hit when the team signed former Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle to right their franchise heading into the post-Paul George-era. Considering Carlisle’s history with more dynamic forwards and the potential for a serious roster overhaul as a result, keeping McDermott in “the crossroads of America” may not be atop the franchise’s priorities list.

If that happens and McDermott’s camp starts to send feelers out into the open market, the Philadelphia 76ers shouldn’t let his agent hang up the phone without a deal in place at the mid-level exception.

Why? Because Dougie McBuckets is a perfect fit for what the Sixers desperately need moving forward.

A 40.7 percent career shooter from beyond the arc, McDermott is one of the most consistently effective 3 point specialists in the NBA over the last half decade. He’s surpassed the 40 percent mark in four of his last five seasons, including an insane 43.5 percent performance on 4.3 3 pointers per game, and has even developed a decent offensive game inside the arc, where he averages right around four attempts per game.

Does McDermott bring you much as a rebounder, assister (assistant?), or blocker? Heavens no. Even in his best season – 2020-21 – McDermott only recorded six blocks, 85 assists, and 221 total rebounds in 1,619 total minutes of action, but that’s only a bummer if it’s part of your expectations.

No, if you think about McDermott as a super-sized J.J. Redick, aka an offense-only shooter who moves around off the ball and can drain open looks with ease, it’s hard not to get excited about the prospects of the pride of Creighton University playing off of his 2014 draft classmate.

Sidebar: There’s a commonly held belief that McDermott is one of the worst defenders in the NBA. Although he certainly isn’t going to make anyone forget about Matisse Thybulle, Ben Simmons, or Joel Embiid anytime soon, to McDermott’s credit, he actually ranked 60th out of 97 qualifying small forwards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus according to ESPN, which is a pretty big upgrade over past seasons.

In 2020-21 the Philadelphia 76ers needed a reliable reserve forward in the worst way. While they could occasionally count on players like Mike Scott or Anthony Tolliver to provide quality minutes in concentrated doses, Doc Rivers almost exclusively relied on reserve guard plus Dwight Howard in his playoff rotation, and had to compromise the optimal roles of players like Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons as a result. Heading into 2021-2022, Daryl Morey can’t allow that to happen again. If Doug McDermott’s market doesn’t balloon into Davis Bertains territory, expect the Sixers to be heavy players for his services this summer, as he’s a perfect fit for their offensive identity regardless of who is on the team around Joel Embiid.