The Brooklyn Nets acquired K.J. McDaniels during the last day of trading, but who is he?
It’s understandable for you to ask this, and, hopefully, I’ll shed some light on this relatively unknown player. McDaniels is a 24-year-old wing who’s spent three years in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets, but he’s been tucked away on the bench and hasn’t had a chance to jog memories about him.
Back in 2014, there was a wildly athletic 6-6 guard playing at Clemson who was rocketing up draft boards despite being on a team that didn’t make the late-March dance. When McDaniels put his name in the NBA Draft, he had wrapped up his junior years with the Tigers, and it was a tremendous improvement over the season before.
McDaniels averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 36 games, and his biggest upside was his defensive potential. He brought home the Defensive Player of the Year award that year after leading the conference in blocks per game, and his increased offensive output was a shock to most scouts.
So, McDaniels goes to the combine and boasts a 6-11.25 wingspan to complement his legit 6-6 frame, and he recorded a 37-inch max vertical.
Expectedly, he was a monster in transition, and it’s a luxury when a point guard has someone running down the sideline who can haul in the most unreachable alley-oop passes. Moreover, his explosiveness vertically put him in great position to clean up the glass with tip-dunks.
His energy on offense made up for the polish he lacked, and any team that was taking him knew what they were going to get.
McDaniels got picked 32nd overall by the 76ers, and he suited up for 52 games before the Rockets traded for him.
The electrifying athleticism that he had in college translated exceptionally well to the NBA and, believe it or not, McDaniels was becoming must-see TV. He punched home alley-oops as powerfully as any superstar, and he was a feared rim protector despite being undersized.
I’m not a huge fan of advanced analytics, but McDaniels had a block percentage of 4.2 his rookie year. There has only been one rookie (him) in NBA history who’s 6-6 or shorter and recorded that number while playing more than 20 minutes a night, according to Basketball-Reference.
His biggest game that year was a 21-point, 13-rebound showing against the Dallas Mavericks in November, and he managed to average 9.2 points strictly off of hustling.
While that was the best collective showing, he had a block on Greivis Vasquez that was nasty. Just utterly, horrifyingly disrespectful.
You ever get so mad at NBA 2K that you just chuck your controller against the wall for no good reason? Well, McDaniels did the basketball equivalent of that by unleashing a grandiose amount of pain on an inanimate object.
The ball had so much velocity behind it that the fan who got hit was concussed.
Following his stint with the Sixers, who traded him for Isaiah Canaan and a 2015 second-rounder, McDaniels barely cracked the Rockets’ rotation and had spent much of his time traveling between Houston and Rio Grande Valley.
In 16 games last year with the Vipers, McDaniels averaged 15.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and two blocks and it looked like he was back in college.
As the Rockets became more Harden-centric, the leading cause of his reduced minutes was his inaccuracy from three.
McDaniels remedied that and shot 35.3 percent over the course of those D-League contests. His style translates almost seamlessly into what Kenny Atkinson and the Nets are doing, so it shouldn’t be a shock if McDaniels gets a nice amount of playing time as the season winds down.
Brooklyn shoots a ton of threes and leads the league in pace. McDaniels is being more comfortable on the perimeter and loves to run up and down. There are no guarantees that it will be, but there’s a chance that a prosperous marriage goes down in Prospect Heights.