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A small deal gets good grades: K.J. McDaniels

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NBA: Houston Rockets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets didn’t have to invest in K.J. McDaniels. They could have filled their roster opening with a D-Leaguer. McDaniels was reportedly offered by the Rockets as they sought to get under the cap. The Nets didn’t provide the Rockets anything but “cash considerations,” according to their press release.

It is a minor deal but one that a lot of pundits liked because of the 6’6” McDaniels defensive abilities and his potential as a 3-and-D specialist. The Nets have a player option on McDaniels for next season.

Kevin Pelton of ESPN, gave the Nets a B...

McDaniels getting traded reminds me that two years ago at the deadline, Sixers Twitter was apoplectic that Philadelphia dealt him as a rookie to Houston in exchange for Isaiah Canaan and a second-round pick (subsequently used to take Richaun Holmes), not unlike this year's Nerlens Noel panic.

Way back then, McDaniels seemed to have a bright future as a 3-and-D wing. With the benefit of hindsight, his hot shooting early in his career was a total fluke. McDaniels has settled in at 29.2 percent for his career, and since the Rockets re-signed him to a three-year, $10 million deal the next summer, he's failed to win a spot in the rotation.

I'm still inclined to believe McDaniels' length and athleticism give him a chance to be a contributor, so using an open roster spot (after waiving Marcus Thornton, acquired in yesterday's trade with the Washington Wizards) on him seems like a reasonable use of the Nets' cap space. Brooklyn can evaluate McDaniels for the remainder of the season before deciding on his $3.5 million team option for the 2018-19 season.

Adding McDaniels brings the Nets almost to the salary floor for this season, a small bonus of the deal.

Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post liked it enough to give it an A.

This, like taking on Andrew Nicholson on Wednesday, is exactly what the Nets should be doing. McDaniels has never really turned the promise he had in the 2014 NBA draft into production, but he should get a chance to play in Brooklyn. If he doesn't do anything, the Nets can simply decline his option for next season. If he does something, then it's found money. For a team with no talent or assets to speak of, it's a good move to make — and saves them money to boot, as they were below the salary floor.

Houston did a nice job of shedding the salaries of both McDaniels and Ennis for free, saving them over $3 million to use on the buyout market. We'll see if someone shakes free worth pursuing with that money, but at least the Rockets have the ability to do so.

Dan Favale of Bleacher Report agrees. Net Grade: A

Getting K.J. McDaniels for absolutely nothing is a great encore to parlaying Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough into Andrew Nicholson and a first-round pick.

Although McDaniels is beyond raw, he has the length and lateral gait to be a lockdown defender across all wing positions. His offensive game is meh, but as ESPN.com's Zach Lowe wrote, you take flyers on 20-something works-in-progress and figure out the rest later:

McDaniels doesn't play, mostly because of a busted jumper. Some team should take a shot on him at the right price. If there's a lesson of the last half-decade of NBA trades, it's this: When there's a rangy or athletic wing that has even a 10 percent chance of being decent, try to grab that player as a throw-in to a larger deal. Think about how teams landed Crowder, Middleton, Iman Shumpert, Will Barton, and even Tim Hardaway Jr. You cannot have enough versatile wings.

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson is going to give McDaniels the green light from three; that should be fun. And a lineup featuring McDaniels, Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis Jefferson has endless defensive potential.

Nick Agar-Johnson, Hashtag Basketball, didn’t grade the acquisition, but liked it a lot, particularly because he can defend...

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.