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Why K.J. McDaniels is Betting on Himself

The most underrated player in the 2014 NBA Draft just pushed all his chips to the center of the table. Why did he do it and what does it mean?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

This time last year, I thought K.J. McDaniels was a good athlete attempting to play basketball. A mid-to-late second round pick, my limited view of him kept me unimpressed. During the 2013-14 college season, he more than impressed me. I was sold on him being a sleeper star as an elite athlete willing and able to improve his deficiencies. Watching the Hawks pass on him at #15 and watching him fall without a move to go get him left me feeling cold and alone.

In contrast to my view of McDaniels, the Clemson junior who led the ACC in blocks 2 straight seasons as a 6'6 small forward, the NBA was cold to K.J. and he dropped to the Philadelphia 76ers at pick #32. I remain stunned. McDaniels has a high floor to be a starter in the NBA and a ceiling to be far more. I am still willing to bet on him being better than those taken before him. So is K.J. McDaniels.

McDaniels rejected the 76ers offer of a four-year deal likely in the neighborhood of 3.6 million dollars with 1.8 million dollars guaranteed to accept a minimum offer of a non-guaranteed $507,336. If McDaniels trips on a curb while caring for abused dogs tomorrow and tears his ACL, this is how much money he will make this year for the Sixers: NOTHING. Should he stay healthy this season, he will make nearly $400,000 less than the Sixers' 39th pick Jerami Grant who signed a deal slightly below what McDaniels was presumably offered.

McDaniels is trading the security of a guaranteed $1.8 million dollars for the potential windfall of being a restricted free agent next season. The Sixers will have to extend K.J. a 1-year offer at just above a million dollars to retain the right to match any deal another team would make to McDaniels. If the qualifying offer is the best deal McDaniels can secure, he would make less than if he had accepted the Sixers offer. McDaniels is betting that his rookie season will command more--likely much more given the risk he is taking.

There is a lot of math as far as what this could eventually mean in summer 2015 (thanks to Hawksfanatic for helping me understand it all), but it simplifies to McDaniels has given up around 1.8 million dollars--even if he never dribbles a basketball again--for the potential to make significantly more in the upcoming offseason. In the multi-million dollar sports world that may not seem like a huge deal, but McDaniels is not sitting on a wad of cash right now. As a three-star recruit only viewed as an NBA prospect in the last 18 months, McDaniels just gave up a lottery ticket for more control of his career and his wallet.

McDaniels just bet on himself. I would push more chips to the table, but I have been all-in for a while. For McDaniels' sake, I hope I did not miss because that is going to be one costly flop.