Of course, easier said than done, but Daniels' postseason breakout is a lesson for aspiring NBA players who lack the skill level or athleticism to stand out as a prospect at the college level.
Daniels isn't exactly a Swiss army knife out there. He does one thing and he does it well. And now he's playing a major role for the Houston Rockets after logging just 32 minutes with the team prior to its last regular-season game. Daniels has emerged as a key player in the Rockets' first-round series with the Portland Trail Blazers. And he's earned his opportunity based on his productivity and efficiency in one particular area of the game.
Daniels is a shooter. He's not out there to do anything else but convert the open shots that find him in the offense.
And so far, he's executing with consistency and timeliness.
Daniels has one job when he enters a game—to stretch the floor and knock down jumpers.
The role Daniels has earned with the Houston Rockets in the playoffs is the same one he had as a guard for VCU.
He was a sniper who lived behind the arc, rarely attempting many shots inside it:
|Team/School||Three-Pointers Made||Three-Point Percentage||Two-Pointers Made||Shots Made at Rim|
|VCU (2012-13)||124 (school record)||.403||25||7|
Talk about playing to your strengths. In his final two years at VCU, where he got over 24 minutes a game in each, Daniels totaled just 13 made buckets at the rim to 218 three-point makes, per Hoop-Math.
And like most elite shooters, Daniels has shown that ability to heat up like a microwave and make shots in bunches.
He set an Atlantic 10 and VCU record by nailing 11 three-pointers against East Tennessee State in 2012-13. This was after hitting 16 combined threes in his two previous games (shot 27-of-49 during that three-game stretch).
Daniels also won college basketball's 2013 State Farm three-point shootout.
But as a 6'4", below-the-rim guard who doesn't generate much offense on his own, he ended up going undrafted in June 2013. He was eventually signed and cut by the Charlotte Bobcats and Rockets earlier in the year without getting much of a chance. So he spent most of his time this year in the NBA D-League, where he continued lighting it up as a lethal long-range threat.
In 48 regular-season games with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, he averaged 12.5 three-point attempts to 3.5 two-point attempts, finishing with 240 made threes at a 40.1 percent clip.
The Rockets would eventually bring him aboard for some limited late-season action, but Daniels didn't see the playoff floor until Game 3. And he capitalized on his opportunity by nailing a three in the second quarter and another one to start the fourth before his game-winning triple with 11.9 tics left in overtime.
"He's got one of the sweetest jump shots I've ever seen," teammate Chandler Parsons told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
Daniels followed his 3-of-6 three-point performance in Game 3 by scoring 17 points on 4-of-5 shooting from downtown in Game 4.
The beauty of Daniels' game is that he's contributing without needing the ball in his hands. He plays catch-and-shoot basketball with a high IQ—if a shot isn't there, he's quick to give it up and keep the ball moving.
Of his eight made field goals in the playoffs, six of them have been spot-up jumpers and two have been one-dribble pull-ups.
"I've always been a shooter," Daniels told Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. "High school. Middle school. That's just been my mentality, and I've been blessed to be with a lot of coaches that love shooting the ball. And every team needs a shooter. That's my job."
Despite being limited in almost every area of the game, Daniels' terrific shooting consistency holds significant value. And though this might be his ceiling—a 20-minute, spot-up-shooting role player—it's a role that someone needs to play.
The biggest hurdle for a player such as Daniels is that there's very little margin for error. If his jumper is off or his three-ball won't fall, he's probably not bringing much to the table that day.
But given Daniels' track record as a shooter coming in, along with his heroics from downtown on the brightest stage, the Rockets might have found a secret little weapon—even if it only has one simple function.