This is the seventh in a daily look at the top prospects in the NBA Draft: Their strengths, their weaknesses, and whether or not they're a fit for the Celtics. Today's prospect: K.J. McDaniels of Clemson.
K.J. McDANIELS, Clemson
6-foot-6, 196 pounds
HIS STORY: In today’s basketball world, people have increasingly become enamored with phenomenal athletes, not outstanding basketball players. K.J. McDaniels falls into this category: great athlete, not a great player . . . at the moment. He has shown improvement over his three years at Clemson; he no longer relies solely on his athleticism but has begun to develop an offensive skill set. Last year, he averaged an efficient 17.1 points per game on a team that played the third-slowest tempo in college basketball (per Kenpom.com), and also hauled in 7.1 rebounds despite being only 6-6. Even though he wasn't surrounded by many quality players, he led the Tigers to the N.I.T. and anchored one of the best defenses in the country.
HIS STRENGTHS: McDaniels absolutely is an elite athlete. At the draft combine, he jumped 37 inches and also led the camp in the sprint speed at 3.16 seconds. (Admittedly, he didn't test well in lateral speed drills.) Those tests are in isolation and should be used as a guide. When you watch McDaniels play, there's no question he’s an amazing athlete. This translates on the court in his strong on-ball defense and terrific 8.9 percent block rate last year, good for 56th in the country; playing on the wing in a BCS conference makes that very impressive. His high motor is apparent to anyone who watches him (evidenced by his 7.1 rebounds) and is something scouts will like. McDaniels is best offensively playing in transition, and is able to finish strong and above the rim. He attempted 5.1 free throws per game, a decent number, and made 84 percent of those.
HIS WEAKNESSES: The lack of offensive skills is the obvious weakness in McDaniels’ game. But as much as we love great athletes, basketball is a game of skill. He has the skill set and hunger on the defensive side of the ball and willingness to rebound; he just needs to work on his offensive game, particularly his jump shot. He made only 30 percent of his 3-point attempts last year and this weakness was highlighted at the draft camp, as he shot just 8-for-25 from 3-point range. He needs to work on tightening his handle and offensive moves to create his own shot. Relying on being more explosive is not going to be enough in the NBA.
IS HE A FIT FOR THE CELTICS? I think McDaniels could be one of the biggest sleepers in this draft. He won’t be an impact player right away, but over time -- if he can acquire a solid offensive game -- he develop into one. His defensive prowess and motor are things that a lot of college players just do not have. He’ll make a roster on those skills and his athleticism alone. If he adds a consistent offensive game, he can be a key piece of a team down the road. I’d like to see McDaniels in green but I think he’s just a little bit of a stretch at No. 17. I can see him going in the 20-25 range. If the Celtics work him out and love him, Danny Ainge might take a flyer. I don’t see it happening, but some GM will grab him and I think be real happy with the results in a few years.
COMING ON TUESDAY: Glenn Robinson of Michigan.