Saturday, June 14, 2014

2014 Draft Scouting: DeAndre Daniels

UConn SF DeAndre Daniels never lived up to the star listing next to his name when he got to UConn.  The early entrant into this year's draft, leaving after his junior season, showed up in Storrs as the #10 player in the Class of '11 (per Rivals) and the highest-ranked recruit UConn had hauled in on the perimeter since Rudy Gay in 2004.  Daniels played a meager 12 MPG in his freshman season, amassing 3.0 PPG on 34.1% shooting in whatever time he did get.  His role grew as a sophomore, developing into a supplemental option on a team with a backcourt-dominant offense, ending with averages of 12.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG on 46.8% shooting.  In a similar role as a junior, Daniels finally found his outside shooting stroke, connecting on 41.7% of his three point attempts, a significant increase over his marks of 30.9% as a sophomore and 24.0% as a freshman.

Most impressive was Daniels' play in the NCAA tournament en route to a national title.  His highlight performance came in a 27 point effort against Iowa State in the Sweet Sixteen.  Daniels' 27 points came on 10-15 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.  The statement he made in the tournament wasn't limited to the Sweet Sixteen, as he also showed out against Florida in the Final Four.  Daniels managed 20 points and 10 rebounds on 9-14 shooting against the Gators, cementing his name into this year's draft picture.  While another year of stellar play without Napier around dominating the ball could possibly have boosted Daniels into "first round lock" status in 2015, it's hard to imagine things getting much rosier for his draft status.  His production may have left something to be desired over three years at UConn, however, DeAndre Daniels is a legitimate NBA prospect.

Click "Read More" for the rest of the scouting report...

Daniels doesn't necessarily have a "dynamic" game, as things seem to happen slower when you watch him play.  He has somewhat of a slow, almost awkward, release on his jump shot that could cause problems at the pro level against quicker, longer, more athletic defenders.  While this may be a concern, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com points out that his high release point may mitigate some of these problems:
"Although his release isn't ultra-quick, he has a high release point on his shot, which coupled with his size allows him to get his jumper off from a very difficult vantage point for defenders to contest."
---From DraftExpress.comhttp://www.draftexpress.com#ixzz34Zsk0Atv
Daniels also masks his lack of elite athleticism with his size; mainly his elite wingspan.  Daniels measured in with a legitimate 7'2 wingspan at the NBA Draft Combine, ranking him 3rd among all SFs in attendance in standing reach.  Had Daniels recorded a more impressive vertical at the Combine, this post may not even exist, as there would be no chance he slipped into the 2nd round.  Nonetheless, his 32" vertical leap is cause for concern, as someone of his slight build should have some athleticism to overcome his lack of strength.  Aside from large hands and long arms, Daniels is below average from a physical standpoint.  Among SFs at the combine, his vertical only topped that of LaQuinton Ross, another 2nd round prospect.  Athleticism is a legitimate concern, whether Daniels goes in the late 1st or the middle of the 2nd round.

As far as things to like about Daniels go, the most enticing aspect about him is his length.  At 6'9 with a 7'2 wingspan, he has rare reach for a SF.  Also, he has the potential to be a knockdown catch-and-shoot option on offense.  Thanks to Dylan Burkhardt of umhoops.com and shotanalytics.com, we can take a look at Daniels' zone shooting in his junior season:
seriously, check out Dylan's work
As you can see, Daniels did his best work from the left wing and the middle of the paint.  His potential as a spot-up shooter on the left wing and in the left corner seems to be immense, and it would appear that he can do some damage in the paint off of shot fakes and in pick-and-roll situations.  His length tailors him to floaters over bigger defenders in the college game, where shot-blocking big men are less frequent.  Daniels will have to prove he can finish inside the arc, as I'm unwilling to project him as a versatile scorer as a professional, due to his body type and lack of athleticism, length be damned.

If the Pistons were to draft Daniels with the 38th pick (I've yet to find anything suggesting they've worked him out), he would likely be a long-ish term project.  Daniels simply isn't physically suited to the professional game, and would probably benefit more from the increased attention he'd get playing in the D-League; both on the floor and in the weight room.  If he were to be kept on the NBA roster, his shooting from the left side of the floor would be his greatest asset, as the Pistons are in need of shooting from every perimeter position.  That being said, I think Daniels is a worthwhile long-term investment, as his length and shooting will provide a decent basis for growth.  If he can bulk up a little bit and improve his ball-handling, he can be a very solid contributor on the wing.  As the recruiting rankings and his scouting reports suggest, there's a natural level of talent available with Daniels that just isn't there with every 2nd round prospect.  The most important thing with Daniels will be physical development, which can't be rushed.  Allowing him nearly a full year in the D-League should be a prerequisite.  If DeAndre Daniels is still on the board at #38, I think he warrants consideration so long as there isn't a massive natural talent still on the board.  Daniels has enough potential to warrant taking a non-guaranteed chance on in the 2nd round.  Guys with his level of potential aren't always easy to come by and he deserves a look.

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