Previous “Making the Leap” posts:
Yesterday I mentioned in my Jae Crowder piece that trades during the season can often help certain players. Well for the next guy I’m talking about, a trade particularly did not help him.
K.J. McDaniels was selected 32nd overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. McDaniels was a no-show during the first day of mini-camp after unsuccessful contract negotiations. Many thought that he would play overseas or in the D-League if both sides did not come to terms. Eventually, he signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal worth roughly $500,000, which made him an unrestricted free agent in 2015. It was highly risky at the time being that he was a second-round pick and there was a chance he could get cut at any moment since his salary really did not count until he played out the deal. While on the Sixers, it paid off for the most part. He was in the rotation from the start of season, making a name for himself with his dunks and shot blocking ability while also becoming a fan favorite in Philly.
McDaniels really did make a name for himself during his time there. Unfortunately, his time with Philly ended. During the 2015 NBA Trade Deadline, McDaniels was traded to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Isaiah Canaan and a 2015 2nd-round pick. I saw this as a head scratcher as he was doing great for the 76ers. You knew that he would not get the same playing time with the very completive Houston Rockets. He was at the back end of the bench and eventually was lost for the season with fractured elbow.
K.J. McDaniels 2014-2015 final season averages
With Philadelphia: 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals & 1.2 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. Played 52 games (started 15).
With Houston: 1.1 points, 0.5 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.0 steals & 0.2 blocks in 3.3 minutes per game. Played 10 games (started none).
McDaniels really did not have a spot in Houston’s rotation so late in the season because of the players they already had at his position. When he was a free agent this past month, I right away thought that he would be heading somewhere else to receive more playing time. I was shocked that he chose to sign back with the Rockets. I was even more surprised that the team would even offer him that big of a deal (3 years, $10 million).
So what do I expect from McDaniels in year two with a full summer learning the Rockets playbook and getting acclimated with his teammates? Right now, Houston has a real log jam at shooting guard (James Harden & newly signed Marcus Thornton) and at small forward (Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer & newly drafted Sam Dekker). On paper, it does look like he is the odd man out, however I really don’t see them cutting him, especially after signing him to that nice deal mentioned before. In the beginning of the season I would not be surprised if he ends up playing for the Rockets D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. If he improves on his game instead of relying on dunks and blocking shots, we very well could see him in the regular rotation sooner rather than later.
McDaniels is a very interesting player to look out for this summer and the first couple of weeks of the season. He made a risk with signing to an already crowded backcourt in Houston but he already made a huge risk in the beginning of his career signing that un-guaranteed deal which now looks like a smart move. We’ll see as the season goes on if K.J. McDaniels has the same contract luck twice.