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Finding Playing Time for Houston Rockets K.J. McDaniels

Nov 20, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes (22) guards Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) during the second half at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies beat Houston Rockets 96-84. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 20, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes (22) guards Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) during the second half at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies beat Houston Rockets 96-84. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
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The Houston Rockets must try to find more minutes for K.J. McDaniels after the second-year forward’s impressive game against the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers.

Houston Rockets second-year forward K.J. McDaniels had a stellar first half Wednesday night against his former team in which he scored 10 points in under nine minutes.

McDaniels was traded to the Rockets almost a year ago for point guard Isaiah Canaan in a deal which Rockets fans initially had mixed feelings about.

Some felt that Canaan never got the playing time he deserved, and that the Rockets were giving up a capable bench player at a postion in which they lacked depth.

Others felt that McDaniels was a promising young talent, and while the Rockets may have been shallow at the point guard position, McDaniels’ upside was worth the risk.

Flash forward a year later, and the Rockets still aren’t entirely sure what McDaniels is capable of. Before coming to the Rockets, many considered McDaniels to be the second best rookie in the league.

In Philly, McDaniels averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds in about 25 minutes of play. He marveled crowds with his athleticism by blocking shots and throwing it down above the rim.

In Houston, it’s been a different story. Playing behind two veterans– Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer— McDaniels has struggled to find minutes with the Rockets, averaging just over 3 minutes during his first season with the team, and 4.5 minutes during his second.

Last season, McDaniels’ lack of playing time made sense. While he may have been the Rockets most athletic small forward, he had yet to develop the defensive discipline of Ariza, and his three point shot was not as effective as Ariza’s or Brewer’s. Because the Rockets were finding success with their veterans, McDaniels’ chance of seeing the court was slim.

During the 2015-2016 season, however, things have been different. Having gone from competing in the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets are currently struggling to make the playoffs.

For most of the season, Ariza has held his own, shooting 37.5% from deep and playing his usual great defense. Brewer, on the other hand, has played far below expectations the majority of the season, shooting the ball at 29.5% from three. Occasionally, Brewer has made up for his poor shooting with his hustle and energy, but it hasn’t been enough to redeem his otherwise lousy season.

With the Rockets’ lack of success, and Brewer’s below average performance, the Rockets have no excuses for not finding more playing time for McDaniels. As he demonstrated Wednesday night against Philadelphia, McDaniels is capable of bringing the same level of energy as Brewer, while also providing greater athleticism on the defensive end.

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Having multiple options on a good team is sometimes a problem, as some solid talent often gets overlooked. Having multiple options on a struggling team should be a solution, as a team can choose to go another route if the current rotation isn’t producing the desired result.

McDaniels’ performance against his former team may have been a fluke, but while the Rockets continue to struggle, they might as well see if McDaniels can play with the same effectiveness night in and night out. Besides, his teammates seem to like to watch him play above the rim.

It's official now — this is the KJ McDaniels Game. https://t.co/uUBFxgFtK2

— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) March 10, 2016

With the Rockets set to finish the final stretch of the season– and with Brewer playing better as of late– it may be too late for McDaniels to find a consistent spot within the rotation. Nonetheless, Wednesday night proved that McDaniels deserves more playing time.

Next: Are these Rockets choke city 2.0?

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