DeAndre Daniels: What to Expect, When You're Expecting
Seeing American players in the NBL is now a regular fixture. James Ennis' superb 2013 MVP caliber season, has given fans an exciting taste and expectation of what these players can bring to an already evolving league.
With Ennis gone, the Perth Wildcats followed up their international recruitment by signing Toronto Raptors draftee, DeAndre Daniels. The Wildcats 'home-run hit' with Ennis, has placed high expectations on the 22-year-old Daniels, who is out to prove his doubters wrong.
I’m just going to go out there and not look at it as a negative, but look at it as a positive... I’m just going to go out there and get better. - DeAndre Daniels
Daniels was the 37th pick in a stacked 2014 NBA Draft, indicative of his talent coming out of the University of Connecticut. Steve Chalmers wrote an overview on Daniels, breaking down his vitals and painting the picture of a talented youngster, looking to hone his skills down-under.
Daniels' arrival is going to pose a number of interesting questions: Is he going to see success this season? Can he fill the massive shoes left by Ennis? What can Wildcats fans realistically expect from this raw talent?
Ennis went to a small Division 1 school (Long Beach State), who in 2012-13 had a record of 19-4, losing to the number 2 ranked team in the country (Baylor) by 46! Daniels who started for UCONN in his Junior year, helped Shabazz Napier lead the Huskies to a 32-8 record and a State Championship. Daniels without a doubt played for the better team, but how do their stats match up? #484044689 / gettyimages.com Ennis Senior Year (12/13): 16.5 PPG, 49% FG, 35% 3PT, 6.6 RB, 2.1 AST, 1.7 STL, 1.3 BLK
Daniels Junior Year (13/14): 13.0 PPG, 46% FG, 41% 3PT, 6.0 RB, 0.4 AST, 0.6 STL, 1.4 BLK
The two players had very similar seasons statistically. We could deduce that Ennis is a better scorer and defender, however that is likely due to the weaker teams Long Beach State played. On a peculiar note, Daniels had a meager 17 assists the entire season; was it because he had teammates shooting like this?
Poor Al Horford. I hope he stays healthy this year. Anyway, assists aside, Daniels is a baller. In a tougher conference, with better opponents, more media exposure, pressure and a shoot-first point guard (Napier), he excelled. The 6 foot 9 forward hit a whopping 41% of his 3's. Most promisingly, If he can mirror his college stats in the NBL the same way Ennis did (albeit with a higher scoring total), he will light up the league.
In 2013, the Atlanta Hawks drafted and traded James Ennis to the Heat. The 50th pick in a weak draft. His success despite his draft position, is testament to his development and hard work (or a scout's oversight). Lets not go overboard though, Ennis will be lucky to garner a role on a depleted Miami Heat team this year. His well documented 2013 season in the NBL has helped his NBA stock, yet he still had to murder the summer league to prove his worth.
Ennis' reasons for coming to the NBL last season were financial. He needed to support his family and a D-League salary of USD $25,000, was insufficient to the requirements of his five siblings and an unwell mother. Reading between the lines - the dude was hungry and had far more than his NBA dream to play for.
Daniels on the other hand, went 37th to the Raptors, in what is considered to be one of the strongest drafts since 2003 (Lebron, Wade, Melo, Bosh... Darko). He was a key player for the UCONN Huskies, despite his relatively quiet game in the decider. Being on that stage brings exposure and critique, a place where Daniels flourished.
With fellow Raptors draft pick Bruno Caboclo (20th overall) taking the 15th and final roster spot in Toronto, Daniels was left without much choice of where to go. Judging by the above quote, he is reluctantly on his way to Australia and is clearly not coming equipped with the same need to succeed as Ennis.
What made Ennis so explosive and memorable in his NBL stint, was his athleticism. He made Tom Abercrombie look like 2014 Steve Nash. His dunk highlight package was, and still is, a joy to watch. Daniels, however, is a taller player with a 7'1 wingspan, but he does not possess the same hops as Ennis. He is a quick footed defender, who is going to get a lot of blocks and steals, which is a pleasing sign for the Wildcats, as Ennis insisted on playing passing lanes (which resulted in those epic jams!) instead of traditional defense.
Daniels' shooting action looks mechanical and a little awkward, though he is a solid spot-up shooter and has a quick first step for a big guy. He can get to the rim and is comfortable shooting off the dribble. Daniels also drastically improved his outside shooting by 10% over his first two seasons, a sign that the raw athlete has a lot of growth left.
Take a Punt
DeAndre Daniels is not going to bring the same "thing" to Perth as James Ennis did in 2013/14. They are different players, in different positions, at different stages of their careers, playing for different reasons. Ennis' success has paved the way for prospective NBA players to showcase their talents and get some much needed tread on their tires.
Long-armed, mobile Power Forwards, with three-point range, a quick first step and an ability to play defense are a rarity in any league. If Ennis can see such success replicating his college stats in the NBL, Daniels is going to be a primed for a stellar year (big call coming... ).
I would be a surprised if this kid is not an All-Star this season. His skill-set and talent, will ensure that the void from Ennis' departure will be amply filled.
Wildcats fans get your seat in the stand ready. This 'home-run hit' is heading straight out of the park too.