After filling their roster hole at starting point guard through the draft, the Mavericks are left with a solid starting lineup and plenty of options for Rick Carlisle’s beloved three-guard lineups. What they don’t currently have: great second and third options for positions three through five.
If they’re looking for some relatively cheap athleticism to help them shore up the wing position, one possible option is springy swingman K.J. McDaniels, whose option was declined earlier this week by the Brooklyn Nets.
McDaniels has played just three seasons in the NBA, but has been on as many teams. He first drew attention as a member of the truly dismal 2015 76ers primarily for his impressive dunks:
... but also for the fact that he has the world’s greatest mom.
The Sixers traded him to Houston later that season, where he warmed the very end of the bench until the Rockets shipped him up to the Nets this past season. Over the course of his career he’s averaged 13.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, though he’s only contributed 14 minutes per game, on average.
Dunking. K.J. McDaniels’ strength is dunking. Open lane? Dunk it. A lane clogged by defense? Dunk it anyway. No one to lob it to him? No problem, self-lob followed by a dunk.
The point here is that his raw athleticism is his big selling point to free agency suitors.
As you may have deduced from the section above, McDaniels’ primary weakness is that he has a pretty limited skill set. His overall shooting numbers aren’t terribly impressive, and if you break them down by distance, you can see why.
Last season McDaniels made just under 46 percent of his 169 field goal attempts, but that figure jumped to 63 percent on attempts within five feet of the basket. He took a plurality of his shots inside this range, but also jacked up nearly as many three-point shots, connecting on just over 30 percent of them.
Unless the Mavs try to rework his shot (and succeed), McDaniels doesn’t offer them much in the way of range. And given his sheer lack of playing time the past three seasons, it’s hard to say what he would or wouldn’t be able to contribute on defense.
Fit with the Mavericks
Despite being in the NBA for three years, McDaniels is a bit of an unknown commodity. He’s either had to contend with truly awful basketball circumstances (the 2015 76ers won 18 games; the league-worst 2017 Nets won 20) or found himself struggling to break into the rotation on a playoff-bound Western conference team.
Filling a backup role on a team that’s rebuilding (and has a plan that doesn’t involve being absolutely dreadful for several years) could be the opportunity McDaniels needs to get some playing time while having the support of a organization and coaching staff that wants (and knows how) to win.
On the Mavericks’ end, the team seems to have recently realized that focusing on the medium to long term and investing in younger players could actually be a sound strategy. McDaniels, with his youth and athleticism, fits well with Dallas’ current approach. It’s possible that the Rockets knew what they were doing when they kept him off the floor, but at this point he seems worth a shot for a team like the Mavericks. He’d only make them more fun to watch.
Will the Mavericks actually pursue McDaniels? *shrug emoji* Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to fringe free agents. But it could be the perfect situation for both parties.