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Examining Houston Rockets K.J. McDaniels Summer League Performance

Mar 9, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) dribbles the ball past Philadelphia 76ers guard Hollis Thompson (31) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) dribbles the ball past Philadelphia 76ers guard Hollis Thompson (31) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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Continuing SCS Summer League series next up, analysis of the Houston Rockets leading scorer K.J. McDaniels and his best and worst moments.

There’s no other player on Houston Rockets roster that is seeing the clock ticking as fast as K.J. McDaniels. The 23 years-old small forward was signed by the Rockets with the team’s mid-level exception last season to a three-year $10 Million contract but has seen very little regular season action since then.

Picked 32nd in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft McDaniels had a breakout half-season with the Philadelphia Sixers. He played over 50 games and scored 9.2 points and close to 4 rebounds prior to getting traded to Houston. Once here he was relegated to very limited minutes in the following seasons. Yet, he still was  told he was a part of Houston Rockets future and Red Nation fans indeed see a lot of potential whenever this athletic forward is on the court.

Despite having a few more opportunities this season, McDaniels is mostly remembered for being part of one of the most pathetic and shameful scene of the year (and even worse if you are a Rockets fan) :

Now with a new Head Coach it remains to be seen as to whether K.J. McDaniels will be put to good use inside the Rockets rotation. However if the Summer League is any indicator of McDaniels’ year, then he started off on the right foot.

Averages:

29.5 Minutes Per Game, 16.0 Points Per Game, 5.2 Rebounds Per Game, 2.4 Assists Per Game, 1.8 Steals Per Game, 1.6 Blocks Per Game*

*Led the Houston Rockets Summer League Team in all Highlighted Stats

General Highlights:

We’re all familiarized with McDaniels athleticism and strength especially with his flashy blocks coming from behind. He had a lot of those moments in the Summer League as well.

K.J.’s bloated stats derive from the fact he had the ball for the majority of possessions with opportunities to shoot the ball or drive to the basket . Thus his FG% is decent at best with 39.3% – a little under his career average of 39.7.

Improvements:

Despite only knocking 33.3% of his three-point shots down he definitely seems more comfortable shooting it. To wit he’s improved his mechanics and shooting form, and as a result he is definitely reaping better results than prior seasons.

In fairness McDaniels improved as the tournament progressed. Breaking down the five games K.J. registered 16.6% from beyond the arc in the two first games and then an amazing 46.6% in the last three.

What draws attention though is his defensive game. First there is his leaping prowess and explosiveness specifically in come from behind blocks. Yet, McDaniels also exhibited a very intuitive game, nice reflexes and anticipation and as a result led the Houston Rockets in steals with a very respectable average of 1.8 steals per game.

Take a look below at a McDaniels classic come from behind blocked shot:

Kj McDaniels block coming from behind! pic.twitter.com/1cyGyF3n8q

— André Luiz (@dededeco) August 1, 2016

The next play shows McDaniels improved mechanics when shooting from beyond the arc:

pic.twitter.com/qdmrMS58VF

— André Luiz (@dededeco) August 1, 2016

What Needs Work:

Turnovers. If McDaniels wants to become part of HC Mike D’Antoni rotation, he must handle the ball better. Though I mentioned his improved skills leading to steals, it should also be noted they often resulted in turnovers immediately after.

This points to his sub par ball handling ability which specifically needs work. Sure, with James Harden on the team K.J. won’t have many opportunities to dribble and control the ball, yet even on simple fast break chances McDaniels fails to drive to the basket carefully.

Here’s a couple of plays that highlights those situations:

McDaniels Turns the ball after stealing the basket pic.twitter.com/RhVQOcZ93J

— André Luiz (@dededeco) August 1, 2016

In this first play McDaniels steals the ball after a failed dunk attempt by Montrezl Harrell but after grabbing the basket he simply turns it over instead of calling for time or giving it up for the jump ball opportunity.

pic.twitter.com/cSCXcPZYZb

— André Luiz (@dededeco) August 1, 2016

Finally we have McDaniels showing great instincts and anticipation to steal the ball from the opponent but then goes stumbling to the fast break and tries a terrible pass that results in another turnover instead of driving to the basket himself.

With the Rockets thin at small forward  and Corey Brewer coming off one of his worst seasons there’s no reason to believe K.J. McDaniels won’t get more playing time this season.

Further, provided McDaniels can show his extreme value as a defensive force and continue to improve his outside shot, I believe the Rockets will have a competent replacement for the aging Trevor Ariza for many years to come.

Next: DRS: Weird in a Good Way

Next: Updated Free Agency Report

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