Drafted by: Philadelphia 76ers, No. 32 overall
Height/Weight: 6'6", 196 lbs
Age: 21 years old
Projected NBA Position: Small Forward
Pro Comparison: Jimmy Butler
Twitter Handle: @KJMcDaniels
Clemson small forward K.J. McDaniels looks to bring his multidimensional impact and energy to the NBA after flying all over the court in the ACC.
He stuffed the stat sheet to the brim by scoring, rebounding, protecting the rim and playing lockdown defense. McDaniels' efforts on both ends of the floor earned him All-ACC honors and the conference Defensive Player of the Year award.
More importantly, NBA scouts noticed his explosive play and two-way leadership of the Tigers. McDaniels climbed into first-round position and set himself up for a successful pro career.
His elite defensive talent and offensive potential will make him one of the most valuable role players in the league.
McDaniels showcased his length and brilliant athleticism all season, as he used his reach to bother opponents and elevated over everyone in the open floor.
Unfortunately, he turned in a mixed bag of measurements and athletic tests at the NBA Draft Combine. He registered a solid but unspectacular 37" vertical, and he measured at 6'6" with shoes on, which is a bit undersized for a small forward. On the plus side, his wingspan measured 6'11.25".
He also strangely recorded a combine-worst 12.71-second time in the lane agility drill. However, this seems more like a footwork or logistical mistake than an actual reflection of what he can do on the court.
In the three-quarter sprint, he showed that he indeed has NBA-caliber foot speed by clocking the fastest time in the 2014 class.
If you watched him at all at Clemson, you know he has great bounce and body control. The only concerning negative to take from the combine is his relatively short stature.
It's not too often that we start a player's strengths section off with defense. That's not meant as a slight to McDaniels' offensive skills or potential, but rather a commendation of his abilities as a stopper.
McDaniels effectively slowed down several NBA-caliber players in the ACC and beyond, using great footwork and lateral quickness to cut them off. His long arms also helped deter them from continuing their drives or shooting chances.
Even when foes did think they had daylight to shoot, he closed the gap with terrific timing and great extension while contesting.
Many of those contests also led to blocks, as he led the ACC with 2.8 per contest. McDaniels is also a ball hawk in the open floor, getting chase-down blocks and swiping the occasional steal. He won't record nearly as many blocks in the NBA, but he'll bother a lot of shots on the perimeter.
Using his 6'11" wingspan and upper-end vertical explosiveness, McDaniels thrived during open-floor sequences at Clemson.
He attacked the rim in a variety of ways: quick slashes from the wing, weak-side putback slams, alley-oops and transition dunks. When opponents were caught flat-footed, he took full advantage and dunked all over them with ease.
It doesn't take a veteran scout or NBA insider to realize that McDaniels' athleticism alone will make some plays at the next level. He has the speed to cover acres in an instant, and he can get up and challenge anyone on both ends of the court.
Offensive Versatility and Potential
McDaniels isn't an ultra-polished scorer with advanced handles and intricate shot-making ability. Nevertheless, he's a multifaceted contributor on the offensive end.
On his aforementioned attacks to the rim, he can use either hand on simple two-dribble drives. He'll be able to go around NBA defenders in both directions if he gets a step on them. McDaniels also made some nice plays and hook shots in the post, although he won't do much of that in the NBA.
From mid-range, he was comfortable pulling up off the dribble and using his springs to rise and confidently hit. If he can break into the middle of the defense, he'll sprinkle in a few 15-18 footers.
Beyond the arc, he's not yet efficient, but he notched 11 multi-triple games in 2013-14. There's some hope for him in that department.
McDaniels' primary challenge entering the NBA is that his offensive skill set isn't too advanced, nor is his court awareness.
His ball-handling is still pretty basic. He needs to expand it and polish it if he wants to consistently generate scoring chances for himself and teammates.
The jump-shooting department could also use some refinement and an upgrade. He shot just 30 percent from three-land as a junior, and he struggled mightily from NBA range during the combine (8-of-25).
Lastly, and most unnervingly, McDaniels' decision-making is subpar. He's not a ball hog at all, but he frequently tries ill-advised shots and misses open teammates. Will he react and execute smoothly against NBA defenses?
The good news is that McDaniels could suit up and guard NBA playmakers tonight if he needed to. The bad news is that he might be a little lost offensively, which obviously will cost him some playing time.
He'll certainly be an attractive option off the bench, though. Stingy defense, rebounding and offensive energy will help him put his stamp on every phase of the game.
During the intro we mentioned that he'll be one of the best role players in the league. Think along the lines of Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls: a rangy, athletic wing who supplies elite defense from an early age.
Butler earned All-Defensive Second Team honors in just his third season, and that's the same kind of impact McDaniels can have. Clemson's star will bring it on both ends, which means he'll attack the rim just as hard as he tries to stop LeBron James and others.
Can he move into the starting lineup? That depends on his shooting consistency and range. If he can at least be respectable and hit 35 percent from deep, he should be able to stay on the court for 25-30 minutes.
The NBA's top small forwards are the toughest group of players to defend in the NBA. McDaniels' ability to challenge them will make him a crucial asset.