The Brooklyn Nets got K.J. McDaniels from the Rockets in a salary dump shortly before the trade deadline. McDaniels has not played much in Houston, but his play in Philadelphia and elite athleticism make him a great buy-low candidate for the Nets.
With the trade deadline coming to a close, the Houston Rockets sent K.J. McDaniels to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for a highly protected future second round pick. The pick will almost certainly never be conveyed, as the Rockets were simply looking to shed McDaniels' salary in anticipation of a veteran-laden buyout market in the week after the trade deadline.
McDaniels was not able to earn major minutes in a loaded Rockets wing rotation, and he played just 480 minutes during his three seasons in Houston. The Nets picked him up for basically nothing, and he will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself after the Bojan Bogdanovic trade opened major minutes in the Brooklyn wing rotation.
K.J. McDaniels is a hyper-athletic project who is already a solid defender. McDaniels has allowed 0.906 points per possession this season per Synergy Sports, which ranks him in the 52nd percentile on that end of the floor. His offense is still a work in progress, but his True Shooting percentage this year is 55.2%, a career best.
Still, looking at McDaniels' stint in Houston is not as revealing as looking back at his rookie season in Philadelphia. McDaniels played nearly three times as many minutes in his 52 games for the 76'ers as he did during his time in Houston. He allowed 0.837 points per possession for Philadelphia according to Synergy Sports, ranking him in the 62nd percentile. He would also occasionally show off his athletic gifts on that end of the floor:
McDaniels averaged an astounding 1.3 blocks per game during his time in Philadelphia. His block percentage of 4.2% would have been 15th in the league if he met the qualification for minutes per Basketball-Reference. Everyone ahead of him on that list was either a power forward or a center and K.J. played shooting guard for 82% of his minutes in Philadelphia.
The biggest red flag for McDaniels is his lack of a three-point shot. He is a career 29.2% shooter from deep and has made nine of 27 attempts so far this season. The Nets offense relies heavily on outside shooting, so McDaniels will likely have to put a lot of work in on his jumper over the course of the next year and a half.
Despite his offensive woes, K.J. McDaniels will be able to help the Nets fortify their greatest weak point. Brooklyn is 30th in the league in opponent points per game and 27th in Defensive Rating per Basketball-Reference. McDaniels is not just a shot-blocking highlight film; he ranked in the 82nd percentile in pick and roll defense during his time in Philadelphia per Synergy Sports. Even if he never develops much of an offensive game, his defense alone is incredibly valuable to a team that struggles mightily to stop top-flight guards. K.J. has the size at 6'6" to guard larger players or stifle opposing ball handlers trying to collapse the defense after a pick play. McDaniels and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson could pair up to be a defensive wrecking crew against teams with high scoring wing players.
The Brooklyn Nets used their cap space to acquire a young prospect in K.J. McDaniels for basically nothing. If he can be even half the player he was in Philadelphia as a rookie, he will be worth his contract. However, he has the potential to be a game-changing defensive force and a solid cutter on offense. He will have the opportunity in Brooklyn to show that his play in Philadelphia was not a fluke, and for the first time in three years, he will have the chance to show just how special he can be.