Have you ever watched a prospect and wondered, "What am I missing?" It can happen positively or negatively. It is how I felt about Maryland center Alex Len last season and still do. He has just never looked special to me. I do not know what he does well. Someone sees something I cannot see and maybe over time they will turn out to be correct.
When draft boards first popped up prior to the season, Clemson guard/forward K.J. McDaniels popped up as an early second rounder on many of them. I had seen him a couple of times during his sophomore season and never could have imagined him rising to be #5 on the Peachtree Hoops Draft Board. He just seemed like a really talented athlete who could play a little basketball. Since he was a prospective second round pick, I prepared to watch him play against Duke on January 11. I would be able to compare him to other NBA prospects to know if he was a real prospect. I saw this when I tuned in (warning this is high hoops nerd content presented by deanondraft.com--the dunks and blocks are coming later):
KJ McDaniels vs Rodney Hood 01/11/14 (via Dean On Draft)
Clemson's K.J. McDaniels' Top 3 Blocks Against Florida State (via ACC Digital Network)
The best thing about this video: it could be almost any game McDaniels has played this year. His vertical leap, body control and timing look like a healthy Dwyane Wade in a longer body. With all that athletic ability, he still shoots free throws at an 88% clip. He is not a great passer, but he is a willing one. It is difficult to know how his passing might develop with better talent around him. His shot has fallen off in the last few weeks as he continues to draw more attention from defenses, but he still projects as a capable shooter with the capacity to improve. His mid-range game needs some work and his results in pick-and-roll plays are mixed, but that is true of most great college prospects. In many ways his game can be boring due to few bad habits as he does not force action to come to him. Then stuff like this happens...
KJ McDaniels Dunk Reel (via Beckett Crownover)
Do you see it? He looks like a potential star and not in a project kind of way. Like Paul George, K.J. McDaniels bypassed big-time AAU basketball and he passes the STAR test. He has an elite skill that will translate to the NBA (shot blocking), displays mental toughness through the grind of playing on a talent-starved team in an elite conference, possesses the physical ability necessary to be a shooting guard or a small forward in the NBA, and has shown resilience in transforming himself from an athlete to a basketball player. He lacks the ball-handling skills of Dwyane Wade or the length of Paul George, but if he continues to develop his skills rather than rely on his athletic gifts he has no limitations. Some teams will see something in other prospects and pass on McDaniels just like they did with George. I just hope there are enough NBA teams who do not see what I see in the Birmingham, Alabama native passed on by all of his in-state college basketball programs. Here is hoping he gets passed over again until the Hawks are on the clock.
[For your own scouting report, watch K.J. McDaniels as Clemson takes on Pittsburgh this Monday, March 3 at 9:00 p.m. on ESPNU. Outside of the ACC tournament, this could be the last time he is on national television this year. Also, Pittsburgh's Lamar Patterson is a player the Hawks could see as a good fit with their second round pick.]