Clemson basketball was not a powerhouse basketball program by any standards in 2013-14, but they did have a star in first team All-ACC selection, K.J. McDaniels. McDaniels was Clemson’s LeBron James, their savior if you will, as he led, or came close to leading the team in every statistical category.
McDaniels ranked first in scoring, rebounding, blocks, steals and three-pointers made. He was also second in assists, and so on and so forth. He single-handedly led a 10 win improvement for the Tigers program in 2013-14 (23-13) and pushed Clemson to the the NIT semifinals. Yet, the dynamic wing player tumbled down the 2014 NBA Draft board thanks in large part to a couple of poor individual workouts.
So when the Sixers grabbed McDaniels with the 32nd pick overall in the 2014 NBA Draft the reveiws were mixed. Some “experts” saw the pick as a tremendous value. Others viewed the selection of McDaniels as a gamble. One thing is for sure, Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown think McDaniels is a player they can develop and that he could have a major part in this team’s future success.
Many scouts have McDaniels pegged as an athletic monster, with superstar potential on the defensive side (ACC Defensive Player of the year last season). His 6’6” stature keeps him on the shorter end for SF’s, but he easily makes up for it in agility, quickness and 6’11” wingspan. His offensive game as a whole boasts some potential, but it still needs a good deal of work in the half-court. To succeed at the NBA level he might need the “Nerlens Noel treatment,” focusing heavily on every fundamental facet of his offensive game.
McDaniels is a team first type player, which is a quality that many players fail to learn. Clemson coach Brad Brownell had this to say about his former star, “K.J. is a hard-working, humble young man who always put team first. He has had a tremendous impact on our program and improved as much as any player I’ve ever coached. I’m extremely proud of his development and excited for his future at the next level.”
I see a lot of former Sixer Andre Iguodala in McDaniels. Iguodala has spent the majority of his career playing the lockdown defender role, but has never been afraid to show off his athleticism, performing fearlessly on the offensive side. Dre’s transition game is elite, yet his scoring ability is far from perfect. I see that same quality in McDaniels, who according to draftexpress.com ranked as the top transition scorer in the 2014 small forward class, scoring 1.49 points per fast break possession. However he often struggled in the half-court at Clemson. Between 2006 and 2010 in a Sixers uniform, Iguodala managed to put up at least 17.1 points per game, on average. With a great deal of hard work and determination in his first few years, this a scoring average I think McDaniels is capable of achieving down the road.
McDaniels is the type of player that will succeed when placed on a talented team. He can play the role of a defensive anchor, and a leader on a team with high-level talent. KJ will never single-handedly lead a team to a championship, but he’s got what it takes to help an organization rise to the next level. During his time in San Antonio, Brett Brown witnessed these types of players and the impact they can have on a roster, as the Spurs are a prime example that it takes considerable talent, versatility and a great amount of leadership to consistently be successful.
If Philadunkia’s home team follows similar guidelines in building their roster, McDaniels might be a necessary piece in Hinkie’s future plans. KJ is a fantastic talent, based solely on his instincts, athleticism and love for the game. If his offensive skills develop, I can see him as a solid building block for the future of this organization.
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