If Doug McDermott becomes Carmelo Anthony’s replacement as the Knicks starting small forward, Enes Kanter said he thinks fans will be surprised at the fireworks.
After all, McDermott’s college nickname was “Dougie McBuckets.’’ Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek already has taken a shine to the former Creighton superstar, who Kanter believes is as accurate from beyond the 3-point line as anyone in the NBA.
On Tuesday in the preseason-opening 115-107 loss to the Nets, McDermott started at small forward. He scored on a 3-pointer, on a driving dunk and a fast-break layup, piling up nine points in 17 minutes.
It has been nine days since Anthony’s trade to the Thunder became official and Kanter, who netted 17 in his debut, arrived from Oklahoma City with McDermott, a fellow 25-year-old.
“First of all, with Doug, he can get an easy … triple-double,’’ Kanter told The Post. “Teams sending double-teams, and if you find him, he’ll make shots. In practice, I’m trying to pass to him all the way on the other end because I know he’s going to make it. I love playing with Doug — nice locker-room guy. [The fans] should be really excited about him.
“He’s probably the top 3-point shooter in the league. When I say it, I believe it. He’ll show himself, especially in this big market.’’
The critics will tell you McDermott’s name should be spelled with a small “d” — his reputation as a poor defender stalking him. The 6-foot-8 forward admits he feels “disrespected.’’
“I’ve definitely gotten better on that end, but still need to get a lot better,’’ McDermott said. “It’s a work in progress. Something I wasn’t known for in college or coming into the league. Part of it is heart and desire. I feel I’ve been disrespected a bit on that end of the floor. Now I’m to the point I get angry when someone scores on me. That’s the mindset I need every night on that end.’’
The small forward slot is up for grabs. Courtney Lee is battling to play alongside Tim Hardaway Jr. in a small lineup. Michael Beasley is in the mix, but his defense is worse than McDermott’s. Hornacek said he will start different lineups the first three preseason games. There’s no telling who will get the call for Game 2 in Washington on Friday.
“It’s tough for anyone to follow in [Anthony’s footsteps] but to hear your name called in the Garden in the starting lineup was a dream come true,’’ McDermott said. “But it’s not about starting. I’ll be fine either way. I know I can provide shooting and play hard every night.’’
Hornacek marks McDermott’s fourth coach in his fourth NBA season. Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau loved him and traded up in the draft to get him in 2014. So far, Hornacek is a big fan, sticking up for McDermott’s defensive smarts. Creighton coach Greg McDermott, Doug’s father, has known Hornacek for years, having coached at his alma mater, Iowa State.
The Knicks coach said during training camp, McDermott was in the right spot during rotations. The starting group got off to an 18-8 bulge against the Nets before folding defensively.
“Obviously Doug can really shoot the ball,’’ Hornacek said. “His rotations are in the right spot. Most of the times you don’t have to be a great defender to be a great team guy on the defensive side. [Former Jazz coach] Jerry Sloan always said that about me about defense. … I never really thought I was a very good defensive player [but], I was always in the right spot. You look at some of the guys on our team: Doug, Ron [Baker], these guys that aren’t maybe the athletes some of the others are, just by being in the right spot 100 percent of the time is very helpful.’’
At February’s trade deadline, McDermott was moved to Oklahoma City, where his playing time dipped from 24 minutes in Chicago to 19 minutes, then 13 in the playoffs. Thunder general manager Sam Presti, known to leave no stone unturned, felt he needed Anthony as a way to keep Paul George in town long-term.
“I had a nice convo with [Presti],’’ McDermott said. “The deal was at the last minute. I wasn’t expecting it. I had a real good summer, they had me in their future. … But they had to do that to contend now in the West. Sam’s a great GM. No hard feelings.’’
“McBuckets’’ said he thinks he has landed in a more suitable spot amid a young, rebuilding core, playing with what he calls “unselfish guys.’’
“I think it is [better] for me individually — a good place for me,’’ McDermott said. “Coach Hornacek runs some great stuff. We got some really good young players. I fit that mold and can grow with them. It’s one of the teams you dream of playing on.’’