Oct 19, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) drives to the basket during the second quarter as New Orleans Pelicans guard Chris Douglas-Roberts (55) defends at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
2016-17 Player Preview: KJ McDaniels-natural athlete
The “Free KJ McDaniels” chants last season were quite deafening in the Toyota Center. Yet, for whatever reason JB Bickerstaff and the Houston Rockets, flat out refused to give him consistent run. To sum up last season as a calamity would be an understatement. The line up rotations, defensive inabilities, locker room murmur, and just an overall lack of effort stifled the growth of the young player. KJ McDaniels is a versatile, explosive (at times), pure athlete.
In analyzing McDaniels development, I would prefer to look at his summer league and preseason action rather than the misadventure of the 2015-16 season. But, alas in order to gain perspective on K.J.’s talents we will look at last season. Briefly.
The 16 games KJ McDaniels spent in the D-League last year, didn’t particularly translate well when he was called up to the varsity team. In averaging a little over six minutes a game, his points per game (ppg) were 2.4 and he was only attempting about 2 shots a contest. This is typical for a young player trying to find his niche with his new team. Now, comparing the numbers McDaniels put up as of late definitely show a maturation and the young guard/forward looks poised to flourish this season.
Oct 19, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Deron Williams (8) passes around Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15) and guard K.J. McDaniels (32) during the second quarter at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
2016 Preseason Accomplishments
2016 Preseason stats:
Minutes per game (mpg): 21.1
Points per game (ppg): 8.3
Rebounds per game (rpg): 4.4
Field goal % : 50%
Three point % : 33.3%
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
With the increased playing time K.J. McDaniels should provide a spark off the bench
While K.J.’s summer league play may have left something to desired, his athleticism will impact both ends of the court. At Clemson, McDaniels earned first team ALL-ACC honors and was the league’s defensive player of the year. Clogging the passing lane and chase down blocks highlight the young player’s ability to read the floor. With the injury to Patrick Beverly, the Rockets expect to see the flashes of brilliance on a more consistent basis.
Along with his defense, like Corey Brewer, the Rockets are requiring more consistent offense from McDaniels. In 2013-14 he led Clemson in points and 3 pointers. With players like Trevor Ariza and Brewer to emulate, K.J. may finally get the minutes and opportunity to excel in his role.
Apr 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) dribbles the ball as Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) defends during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Areas to Improve
While the work that KJ McDaniels has put in during the offseason is evident, there have been the occasional lapses in judgement as well. Getting beat off the dribble, failing to rotate, or just not being aware has resulted in easy buckets for the opposing teams.
But, to reiterate K.J. is young and still learning the nuances of the game. Patience and letting the game come to these young players is an especially hard task, not just for the player, but for the coaching staff as well.
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Wanting instant gratification can stunt a player’s development, but it looks as though the playing time will be there for KJ McDaniels.
Next: 2016-2017 Outlook
Mar 29, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) drives on Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) during the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
With improved play, K.J. McDaniels can find different ways to contribute this season
It’s easy to forget that this will only be the third year in the NBA for the young guard/forward, but the time for his contributions is now.
Coach D’Antoni’s teams may not be known for defense, but that is what will help these Rockets succeed this season. There is no denying the scoring potential and in this offense there will be plenty to go around.
The challenge is finding a way to stay on the floor and not taking plays off when your shot isn’t falling.
Running the floor, active hands on defense, and leading the 2 on 1 break are just some of things that made us fans clamor for this man to get more playing time.
He possesses the size, talent, and athleticism to be a special player in the league for years to come. Here’s to hoping the tangibles all come together this season.
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It’s finally here, the week all of H-Town have been awaiting as the NBA kicks off the 2016-17 season. Houston will open the season in Los Angeles on Wednesday (October 26th) at 10:30PM EST.
To assist Rockets’ fans in preparing for what everyone hopes will be a return to the upper echelon Space City Scoop has a busy week planned. Check with the site daily as the writing team offers Rockets player previews, all 30 NBA team previews and the annual SCS round table sessions.