With Utah’s uneventful 2013-14 season quickly coming to a close, it’s about time to take a peek at the wide array of potential prospects who will be available for June’s NBA Draft. As this season has progressed, my fantastic Salt City Hoops correspondents have taken thorough looks at the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon as potential options for Utah’s high lottery spot.
That in mind, the Jazz will potentially have two more opportunities to add pieces to their team with the 23rd and 35th pick in June’s NBA Draft. While the wide array of potential draft prospects could diminish as we move closer to summer, it’s still a good time to look at some possible options for the Jazz.
One of those potential gaps that Utah will need to fill in would be at the wing position (SG/SF). While that area wasn’t too deep to begin with, the possible departures of Richard Jefferson, Gordon Hayward and Brandon Rush could create a lot of potential openings for the Draft. One of the more probable ways for Utah to fill in those holes would be by utilizing that 23rd pick. While the superstar caliber prospects would more than likely have vanished by that point, there are still some potentially solid options that the Jazz could look at. As we near June’s NBA Draft, I’m going to take a look at some of the more unknown prospects that Utah could look at with their late 1st/early 2nd round picks.
To start this series off, we’re going to take a look at an extremely talented prospect out of Clemson. Despite the ACC’s continued dominance in the world of college basketball, the Clemson Tigers haven’t exactly been a known hotbed for NBA prospects. That notion could be changed by the extremely athletic 6’6 guard K.J. McDaniels.
For the variety of different types of players who make that transition to the NBA, it seems that extremely athletic prospects make that easiest evolution to the Association. Besides Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins, the Clemson junior could be the most physically gifted wing in this year’s draft.
As apparent from the above video, McDaniels is an extremely explosive leaper. While those abilities can lead to some highlight-reel dunks on the offensive end, that trait has helped push his defensive game to a whole new level. Amongst NCAA wings, K.J McDaniels ranks first in the country with 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes.
While superb athletic ability has helped push McDaniels to his current level, the 21-year-old junior is able to be extremely effective because of his unique ability to control his aggression on the defensive end. What separates McDaniels from the majority of guards on any level is his ability to be able to locate the perfect opportunity to break away from his positional counterpart to attack the ball-handler. Even though his overall athleticism and quickness is a huge factor behind that trait, McDaniels also seems to have an extremely solid overall defensive IQ. That strong defensive intelligence has also helped him as an on-ball defender.
As we move to the offensive end, McDaniels continues to use his athleticism as his number one weapon. Like previously mentioned, the 21-year-old Clemson is able to use his solid athleticism and leaping ability to be an extremely effective and exciting transition threat. With that in mind, McDaniels is able to use that athleticism alongside that aforementioned instinct to be an extremely effective weapon. While he isn’t the best ball-handler, McDaniels can constantly find ways to penetrate his way to the paint to either put in those earth-shattering slams or get to the free throw line. When the 6’6 wing isn’t putting down those highlight-reel plays, he’s able to control his lanky and athletic frame around the rim.
While athleticism has potentially pushed McDaniels into that upper-echelon of possible draft prospects, he still seems to struggle when he moves away from the paint. During the 2013-14 season, McDaniels shot an extremely pedestrian 30% from beyond the arc on about four attempts per outing.
Despite the less than stellar shooting percentage, McDaniels shouldn’t be classified as a non-shooting threat. Per 40 minutes, McDaniels made around 1.4 perimeter jumpers which would have put him in that upper-echelon with the other draft-eligible small forwards. With that in mind, his shooting stroke is still extremely solid. When McDaniels made his way to the charity stripe, he was able to shoot an incredibly stellar 84%, which put him in the top-5 among the draft-eligible players in this year’s NBA Draft class.
In terms of his potential role with the Utah Jazz, McDaniels would fill an immediate role with the team.
Offensively, the 6’6 Clemson wing would immediately help out because of his solid ability to cut to the rim and get to the charity stripe. During the ’13-14 season, the Jazz sit 23rd in the NBA in terms of free throw attempts per game. While McDaniels won’t exactly become the next version of James Harden, he should still be able to add an extra element to the Jazz.
When we move to the other end of the court, the 6’6 wing is able to use the combination of superb athleticism and intelligence to be extremely effective. While it’s way too early to predict how the entire Jazz roster will be set up for the 2014-15 season, the addition of McDaniels could help make Utah’s defense into a more frightening unit.