The quality of an NBL development player can certainly vary with some not seeing more than garbage time minutes during their brief career. Sam McDaniel, a development player with Melbourne United in 2018-19, appears set to be much more than that though.
McDaniel has to first navigate a minor hand fracture, and finish an NBL1 stint with the Southern Sabres, before he has a real opportunity to showcase his game as a fully-contracted player for the first time this upcoming United season.
Looking back to almost this time last year, he was busy impressing in the SEABL.
“I love Sam Mac as a guy and a teammate. He made a huge impression on and off the court in his short time in Mount Gambier,” said Pioneers Head Coach Richard Hill.
McDaniel’s signing as a United development player after his Pioneers stint did receive some initial buzz but that was mostly due to the ‘son of a former player’ talk that is becoming increasingly prevalent in Australia's golden era.
If you remove that part of the story and evaluate McDaniel’s talent and potential to contribute then you’ll see that his signing in Melbourne was indeed a shrewd decision and one that should have garnered more kudos.
“Sam’s ability to finish off contact, ability from the three, and ability to defend his position are all things we like,” explains Melbourne United Assistant Coach Justin Schueller.
Schueller is also the Head Coach of Kilsyth’s NBL1 team that were surprisingly upstaged by McDaniel’s Sabres over the weekend.
“I don’t think we have played our best basketball yet but still finding a way to win while Isaac (Turner) has been injured is good,” said Schueller.
The Sabres were again led by David Barlow in their win at Kilsyth and the general recipe that Southern have gone with this season, with mixed success, has been with Barlow at center and McDaniel playing a large chunk of his minutes at power-forward.
The Melbourne United roster isn’t finalised yet but one way to look at McDaniel’s fit is with an eye on the departure of Craig Moller. Sam is shorter than Moller at 6’6” but is stronger and has more genuine wing skills with a tighter handle and higher ceiling as a shooter (37.2% on his last 384 three-point attempts).
Moller has shown a great knack for rebounding and is ahead on the defensive end right now but McDaniel is no slouch in those areas. They are certainly different types of players but both will be logging small-forward minutes in the NBL in 2019-20 with McDaniel a good shot of earning a role like Moller did.
Schueller’s point on McDaniel being able to finish off contact is one of particular interest given Moller’s issues with this at times and Sam’s drive and finish over Dane Pineau on the weekend to force overtime against the Tigers.
At the college and NBL1 level, McDaniel has shown his toughness inside the paint, regularly absorbing contact and finishing, mixing it up to get the rebound, or making a play out of the low-post against a mismatch. He’s a smooth athlete who can change direction, spin and hang in the air after contact.
These particular skills might not be on show as often as his shooting at the next level, at least early in his career when he is in a smaller role, but they do enhance his ability to attack close-outs and be a big threat to score in transition as his career progresses.
Defenders are certainly going to have to close out on McDaniel. He has shown great signs of being a high-end shooter with a quick trigger and an ability to hit a jump-shot, either after spotting up in the half-court, on the move in transition, or with a one or two dribble pull up.
He’s a very good three-point shooter with NBA range,” said Hill.
McDaniel seemingly has the physical profile and the skill-set to surprise a few people this NBL season but it’s now about him putting it all together.
“Consistency is his biggest thing right now,” said Schueller.
“He has an NBL body and work ethic. I’m sure he will be continuing to work on his handle and decision-making off the bounce to enable him to become a next-level player,” added Hill.
McDaniel’s three-point attempt rate has been down this NBL1 season and that has meant it’s been a season that hasn’t quite met the lofty expectations. He certainly remains one of the more interesting prospects in the league though and a name worth tracking.