The Cleveland Cavaliers will likely have the ninth pick in this upcoming draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft in the first round on June 26th. Today, we profile Clemson small forward K.J. McDaniels. Click here for more draft profiles.
Tale of the Tape
Name: K.J. McDaniels
Weight: 198 lbs.
Honors: 2014 All-ACC 1st Team
2013-2014 Per Game Stats: 17.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 2.8 BPG, 45.9 FG%, 30.4 3PT%, 84.2 FT%
Clemson was an underwhelming team this year, going 23-13 and missing the NCAA Tournament. However, the success they did have came largely due to having K.J. McDaniels around. A multi-tool prospect that was a force on the offensive and defensive end, McDaniels was the main guy for Clemson. This is not a role he should be asked to fill in the NBA. While his numbers and attitude may be raised as red flags, he’s the type of player who should develop into a top-notch role player at the next level.
McDaniels has the ability to play multiple positions in the NBA, and this versatility comes from his athletic ability. Standing 6’6” with a 6’9” wingspan, McDaniels has the length to guard small forwards and the quickness to contend with NBA shooting guards. He’s incredibly quick laterally, and is relatively strong, even registering at less than 200 pounds. McDaniels’ main athletic advantage, however, is his leaping ability. McDaniels is a springy athlete that’s devastating on the break, and he got 15 percent of his offense this past year by finishing on the break. He has no fear of dunking on people in traffic, and might be the best in-game dunker in the draft. He also can use this explosiveness to contest shots at an outstanding rate for someone of his size.
Everything McDaniels did at Clemson really needs to come with an asterisk, as this really isn’t the role that he’s going to be playing at the next level. McDaniels shot just under 46 percent from the field and 30 percent from three, but also posted a usage rating of 29.1. That’s a little high. McDaniels is better off picking his spots, dominating in transition, and working without the ball in his hands, all of which play to his strengths. He’s actually a pretty solid catch-and-shoot guy, with a very fluid release from deep, and his mid-range game is strong. His shooting has also continued to improve throughout his career, and it’s not a stretch to envision the 21-year-old McDaniels being a proficient three-point threat and off-the-dribble creator. He’s also decent in the pick-and-roll, although his decision-making and shot selection are both questionable. Both of these things are definitely improvable, but McDaniels is probably best off playing somewhat of a Kawhi Leonard role on offense: off-ball cuts, spot-up threes, attack off the dribble if it’s open, rebound, and kill people on the break.
McDaniels has the potential to be an Andre Iguodala-type on the defensive end, and that’s a big draw for drafting him. With the combination of length and quickness that McDaniels has, he should have no problem guarding shooting guards, small forwards, or even taller point guards at the next level. He’s adept at getting into passing lanes and picking opponents’ pockets, and should have no problems translating that to the next level. McDaniels’s best scenario for defense is in isolation, where he’s excellent at reading his opponent and staying in front of him, and he has great timing for contesting shots. The big issue for McDaniels on this end is going to be adapting to a sophisticated NBA defense. He gets lost a little bit at times off the ball, and will probably give up an off-ball cut for a dunk or seven in the early going. However, his potential to guard multiple positions and be a rim protector from the small forward position are way too good to pass up.
A lot of the critiques of McDaniels center around intangible stuff, which is kind of a red flag. He doesn’t have great basketball IQ, gets lost off the ball on defense, and can be slightly Josh Smith-esque with his shot selection. However, it’s hard to determine how much of this is how he plays, and how much of this was situational. Again, it really should be noted that McDaniels took nearly double the amount of shots per game that any of his other teammates did, and was their only legitimate offensive weapon. When you’re the only scorer on a team playing in a pretty solid defensive conference like the ACC, it’s pretty easy to see why McDaniels forced the offense so much. I think at the next level, a lot of this stuff will start to go away if he goes to a good, disciplined team, and isn’t asked to be a focal point on offense right away. Give him a role similar to the one Reggie Bulluck is playing for the Clippers this year, and I think a lot of this stuff will start to disappear.
The exciting thing for McDaniels’s potential is the development of a player who just made his first All-Star team this year. Demar DeRozan does a lot of the things that McDaniels is good at, and the way that he’s developed on the offensive end, from explosive finisher to mid-range chucker to all-around scoring threat, is something McDaniels should be able to emulate. He’s also a good comparison for McDaniels on the defensive end, as he’s been the best ISO defender in the NBA this year, and has the same defensive versatility. I think McDaniels can end up being a comparable talent on offense, though with probably less on-ball ability, and a slightly better defender. That’s a pretty good ceiling for a guy projected to be the 20th pick.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
McDaniels would be a great fit on the Cavaliers’ roster. He could play shooting guard and small forward, and would back up Dion Waiters primarily, then potentially transition into the starting role at small forward. Another off-ball cutter would be a nice piece for the offense, and his defensive ability on the wing and at the rim would be something Mike Brown would covet. The main concern of drafting McDaniels would be how his tendencies to not be smart with the ball would be influenced by playing with Dion and Jarrett Jack, both players with the same issues. However, I think McDaniels would still have enough positives to him that if he rises up the draft boards (which he really should, in my opinion), or the Cavs trade down similarly to how the Timberwolves did last year, he’s a guy I would like to see them take.