With news that the Pelicans are looking to trade into the NBA Draft to grab a small forward or center plenty of questions have been raised about the plan of the front office. Out of all of them though the most important seems to be which player, or players, have caught the eye of the front office enough to cause them to try to work themselves back into a pick. Instead of trying to guess exactly the player, Pelican Debrief has decided to just break down 18 small forwards and centers leading up to draft day (two reports will be posted daily) so that Pelicans fans will be ready no matter where or when the team trades into the draft and selects a player.
Not every player in the NBA Draft has the potential to turn into a star. In fact the later you start getting into things the more teams are hoping to just land a good role player. In the 2014 NBA Draft there are a few players that look like they have a chance to be a very good role player but one of the more exciting ones is Clemson’s KJ McDaniels.
Standing Reach: 8’6”
Max Vertical: 37
Stats: 36 games, 33.7 mpg, 17.1 ppg, 45.9 FG%, 30.4 3PT%, 84.2 FT%, 7.1 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.1 spg, 2.8 bpg
Draft Projections: Mid to late first round
McDaniels can do a bit of everything. He scored in transition, in the half court, from mid-range, and a bit from three on offense and blocked shots, stole the ball and defended great scorers on the other end while even throwing in a bunch of rebounding for good measure. When trying to fill role player spots guys like McDaniels are important since having one player be able to fill multiple needs allows one-dimensional players like Anthony Morrow a bit more ability to play.
The other part of McDaniels that really stands out is his incredible physical gifts. He is a bit undersized for a small forward at 6’6” but his incredible wingspan more than makes up for it at 6’11.25”. Add to this the ability to move around the floor with ease and McDaniels is already a defensive terror, averaging almost three blocks and a steal per game. It is easy to see at the worst case McDaniels turning out to be an elite NBA defender once he locks in his effort off the ball.
McDaniels has also been a quick learning which leads to hope that he may not be done growing yet. He was an unheralded recruit out of high school that basically didn’t play at all early in his Clemson career so his development into an actual NBA prospect wasn’t something that was expected. If he can continue to grow there is hope he could be more than just a normal role player and instead turn into a super role player along the line of Chandler Parsons.
For all of McDaniels’ physical gifts there are still problems. His jumper is still broken, the release is long and slow at the moment, and that led to a low three-point percentage. Thanks to the release problems McDaniels shot the ball ineffectively against closeouts and with defenders around him, something that obviously will be an issue in the NBA. There is hope though as McDaniels shot the ball when he was just a spot-up shooter but he still needs to quicken up his release a bit to make sure that the shooting can be useful at the NBA level.
Shooting isn’t the only place McDaniels may struggle at the next level, at least to start his career. He isn’t a good enough ball handler at the moment to create his own offense, so it forced him into a ton of contested shots at the college level that can’t work in the NBA consistently. Exasperating McDaniels inability to create his own shot is his lack of court vision and awareness which cause him to struggle to be a good passer.
Finally, and as a cause of being a late bloomer, McDaniels still has room to grow in the basketball IQ area. Part of this is due to being a late bloomer. Since he didn’t play early in his Clemson career McDaniels didn’t see a ton of situations at the highest level of basketball he played so parts of his struggles, like his passing are parts of not quite understanding the game well enough yet. If a GM thinks that is something that can be taught McDaniels is an extremely valuable pick. If not due to his athleticism and work ethic he is still valuable just with a lower ceiling.
Projected role: At first McDaniels is someone who will fit as a defender and athlete off the bench but if everything works out a ceiling of Trevor Ariza or higher seems likely.
Information and measurements for this scouting report were found at DraftExpress. To see his DX report and video you can go here.