KJ McDaniels signed an unguaranteed contract with the Toronto Raptors on August 17th. Essentially McDaniels has a training camp invite where he likely has to beat out Kennedy Meeks and Kyle Wiltjer if he wants a chance at a roster spot.
Kennedy Meeks is an undrafted rookie who performed pretty well in summer league for the Raptors. Wiltjer is a Canadian who played a total of 43 minutes for the Rockets last season. Yes, that is more minutes than Bruno Caboclo got, but I wouldn’t celebrate it. Meeks is 6’10 but has less mobility and shooting range than Jared Sullinger. Wiltjer is also 6’10 and was a great shooter in college. It is unclear what else he can do besides shoot. He is a below average rebounder for a big man and isn’t a good defender. If Wiltjer were two inches shorter he would be Jason Kapono which is ideal for three-point contest, but not in an NBA game.
Story behind the numbers
KJ McDaniels isn’t without warts, but there is a scenario where he becomes a rotational role player in the NBA. McDaniels has a busted jumper with NBA career averages of 41% from the field and 29% from three. Even if McDaniels never improves his shooting stroke he has defensive utility.
As a rookie with the Sixers, KJ McDaniels averaged 9.2PPG, 3.8RPG, 1.3APG, 1.3BPG, and 0.8SPG playing under 26 minutes per game. If he cracks a roster spot with the Raptors, don’t expect similar numbers because he will not see 25+ minutes per game. Since being dealt mid-way through his rookie season, McDaniels’s numbers have declined primarily due to lack of playing time. It is hard to expect a young player to grow and develop when the minutes aren’t there. McDaniels is now 24 years old and will have to bank on his defensive prowess to keep him in the NBA.
The Raptors need KJ McDaniels defensive skill-set. PJ Tucker was a key rotation player for Toronto after they acquired him last season. Tucker is now gone, and the Raptors will miss his defensive impact. PJ was also a good corner three shooter. The Raptors now have a better three-point shooter in CJ Miles, but Miles doesn’t come close to replacing Tucker’s defensive impact. Insert KJ McDaniels who is a good defender.
PJ Tucker is a good perimeter defender that is sure to annoy whatever player has the ball in their hands. KJ McDaniels is an average perimeter defender, but he is a good interior defender. McDaniels may be undersized at 6’6, but his athleticism allows him to block shots. PJ Tucker is also 6’6, but with the build of a tank with 40 pounds on McDaniels, so Tucker doesn’t get a lot of lift off to contest shots inside. Based on these limitations it was hard to play Tucker at power forward especially next to someone like Jonas Valanciunas.
What Position Would KJ McDaniels Play?
The Raptors would be able to use KJ McDaniels at either forward spot. Rookie OG Anunoby won’t be ready to play at the start of the season. KJ McDaniels would be able to fill in for Anunoby until he is up to speed and ready to go. The thinnest position on the Raptors depth chart is the power forward. Outside of Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors don’t have another reliable option at the four on the roster. Siakam was up and down in his rookie season but looked good in the D-League and summer league. Any non-NBA play isn’t a great indicator of NBA success to it is difficult to know if Siakam is ready for a 15-20 minute per game role. If for whatever reason he is not, it would be good to have an alternative. KJ McDaniels isn’t going to wow anybody, but he’s a capable option. Furthermore, McDaniels can also play small forward. If god forbid one of DeRozan, Powell, or Miles get injured KJ McDaniels that can fill in on the wing.
Look it would be great if the Raptors could sign a talent like JaMychal Green, but realistically Toronto is not getting him for minimum money. When OG Anunoby is up to full speed and in game shape, there probably won’t be much of a need for KJ McDaniels, but until then McDaniels could be a useful defensive player. KJ McDaniels isn’t a sexy free agency add, but he is most deserving to crack a roster spot among the camp invitees.