NBA Trade Deadline Report: How Can Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott Help the Thunder?

NBA Trade Deadline Report: How Can Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott Help the Thunder?

A trade sending Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Anthony Morrow to the Chicago Bulls for forwards Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott as well as a 2018 second-round draft pick has been agreed upon by the two teams.

Taj Gibson, the big man out of USC, has been an incredibly consistent player since entering the league in 2009, posting career averages of 9.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1 assists, 1.2 blocks, and .5 steals per game.

Gibson’s calling card is his rugged interior defense, which is spurred by his above-average instincts and great footwork. Standing at 6’10”, his wingspan was measured at 7’4″ at the draft combine — that should come in handy in blocking shots, and Sam Presti has a track record of going after players with great length.

On offense, Gibson has improved a lot since entering the league. Gibson has particularly excelled at the pick ‘n roll/pick n’ pop game, something that should endear him to Russell Westbrook right away. Taj is a knockdown shooter from mid-range, and his footwork in the post is passable enough to get him a few buckets if the Thunder need a safety valve. Gibson always seems to be in just the right position.

Gibson does a great job showcasing his skill set in this December 12th game against the Cavs, where he scored 23 points:

Although Gibson is probably the better player right now, he’s on the wrong side of 30. He’s 31, and will turn 32 in just a few months. Doug McDermott is the upside part of this deal.

At 25, Doug McDermott is probably closer to a veteran than a rookie at this point, but he still has time to improve his game — sometimes a change of scenery is all that’s needed. McDermott is a pure shooter with the ability to sometimes put the ball on the floor, put his head down, and make a run to the rim. At 6’8″, he’s versatile enough to play the four on offense against smaller lineups if needed.

As evidenced by this 20 point outing against the Raptors, McDermott isn’t afraid to put the ball up, and, when he’s in rhythm, Dougie McBuckets can provide the Thunder with spacing that they haven’t seen all season long:

McDermott is known for his offense, but his defensive abilities are meager — and that’s putting it lightly. Which is concerning, to be honest. His ‘stocks’ (steals + blocks) — usually a decent measure of a player’s athletic ability and/or hustle — are virtually non-existent: McDermott averages one-third of a steal and one-tenth of a block per game. He’s also averaged just three boards a game this season.

At 6’8″, 225 lbs., McDermott should be expected to steal, block, and rebound the ball at a serviceable rate, but he’s markedly below par on all three metrics. At his size, McDermott should be a better defender.

He reminds me of Kyle Korver, and that should give you hope: Korver, a career poor defender, has learned how to use his large frame to make up for his lack of physical gifts, like speed and agility.

Sam Presti and Billy Donovan are well aware of these deficiencies in McDermott’s game, believe me. Thankfully, the Thunder are a better defensive team than the Bulls, so his weaknesses can be minimized a bit.

Last season McDermott shot the three-ball at a 42.5% clip. This season, his shooting has dipped, but it’s still at an entirely respectable 38%. If McBuckets can bring his shooting back to last year’s level, the spacing that he’ll bring to the Thunder could be worth way more valuable to the Thunder than his defense is damaging.

As for lineups, it’s hard to say what Donovan might trot out there. Gibson seems like a lock to supplant Domantas Sabonis in a starting role. McDermott doesn’t have an obvious spot in the starting lineup, but, especially with the looming of Enes Kanter’s return, he might fit in right away with the bench mob.

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