Drafted by: Toronto Raptors, 37th pick overall
Height/Weight: 6'9", 196 lbs
Age: 22 years old
Projected NBA Position: Small Forward
Pro Comparison: Less athletic DerMarr Johnson
Twitter Handle: @D_Daniels2
DeAndre Daniels' brilliant postseason was crucial to UConn's 2014 NCAA title run, and he was rewarded with enough NBA attention to make the professional leap.
Before March, he was a fringe prospect who probably wouldn't have entered this year's draft. But throughout the AAC and national tournaments, he delivered terrific shooting and all-around contributions.
Now, he's viewed as a valuable wing who has great size to shoot, rebound and score over opponents. Daniels isn't explosive or creative with the ball, but he's got the makings of a dependable role player who could thrive as a supplementary scoring option.
What exactly does this breakout star bring to the next level?
|Statistics at Connecticut|
Daniels has awesome length for someone who will work primarily as a small forward. He's 6'8.5" with shoes on and has a 7'2" wingspan, which means he'll be able to get his shot off in most scenarios and contest opponents effectively.
Not all of his physical tools are impressive, however. Daniels is a slender 196 pounds, which doesn't bode well for his drives to the hoop, mid-post opportunities or interior defense. There are very few players in the league who can counteract physicality with such a light frame.
He's not an impressive athlete, either. Daniels doesn't have that burst of speed many wings possess, and his vertical leap measured 32 inches at the NBA Draft Combine.
Fortunately, he covers ground pretty well from a mobility standpoint, and his length allows him to compete above the rim.
Between his sophomore and junior campaigns, Daniels dramatically improved his perimeter shooting. He went from a 31 percent shooter on 2.3 attempts per game to 42 percent on 3.2 attempts.
He has a nice, high release on his shot, and by the end of the season, he was connecting from deep with supreme confidence and accuracy. Daniels had five games with multiple triples during the postseason and showed that he can knock down big shots. In addition, he shot 15-of-25 from the NBA three-point line during the combine.
From mid-range, he's not too shabby, as he hit a respectable 38.5 percent of his two-point jumpers (per Hoop-Math). Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress notes that Daniels is comfortable pulling up off his left- or right-hand dribble, and he notched 1.08 points per possession on mid-range attempts.
He may not be more than a role player in the NBA, but his size and shooting ability will greatly impact the game by stretching the floor and affording him pump-fake opportunities.
And when he attacks closeouts, he'll fare pretty well near the rim despite his less-than-stellar athleticism. Daniels was able to create 47 percent of his at-rim scores on his own in 2013-14, and he converted 60 percent of his at-rim attempts (per Hoop-Math).
Tools for Rebounding/Defense
Daniels won't likely shine in any area other than shooting, but he's going to make critical contributions in other areas.
He grabbed 8.3 boards per 40 minutes as a junior, per Sports-Reference.com, and you can bet he'll use his length to rebound well for his position in the NBA. Daniels' 7'2" wingspan and solid instincts will help him corral weak-side caroms or snag the sporadic offensive board.
On defense, he should fare quite well against most NBA forwards. Even though he's not an elite athlete, he moves his feet well and has good lateral quickness for his size.
When you pair that mobility with his reach, you get a player who can accomplish the two most important tasks of on-ball defense: cutting off slashers and quickly contesting jump-shooters.
Physically, Daniels needs to pack on some muscle. At 6'8.5", it's unacceptable that he weighs sub-200. He needs to be closer to 220 or 230. Hopefully, he can hit the weight room hard and at least come close to that goal.
From a skill/fundamental standpoint, we can't expect Daniels to be much of a playmaker at all.
He's not an adept passer, as he lacks the court vision or ball-handling skills to connect with his teammates. He's probably not going to create many shots for anyone at the next level, including himself, which means he won't catch and attack from the wing much.
Sharpening his handle a notch or two would make a huge difference for him to diversify his offensive possibilities.
Due to his rather limited ball skills, Daniels will primarily serve as a spot-up shooter for his squad. When he's on the floor (which may be infrequently), he'll be the fourth or fifth scoring option.
But if his spring shooting and predraft accuracy is any indication, he'll fire on target when he does encounter shooting opportunities.
Armed with an upgraded physique and slightly improved handling skills, Daniels could earn himself more playing time.
His offensive value combined with defensive tools would be enough to promote him. He would be one of the first forwards off the bench, stretching opposing defenses and keeping them honest with occasional drives.
It's hard to foresee him becoming a featured component or even a starter, but considering where his draft stock was a few months ago, he should be thrilled that he's in a position to earn any kind of role. His size and shooting will still enable him to enjoy a long career.