Former Clemson basketball star and hopeful pick in this year’s NBA Draft, KJ McDaniels, has been predicted be taken in the late first round of the draft. McDaniels, this year’s ACC defensive player of the year, possesses a unique skill set which includes unbeatable athleticism, an uncanny knack for blocking shots, an incredible work ethic on the defensive end, and an offensive game which most scouts believe shows virtually limitless potential. He will fall to the late first round because he is not quite ready to start for an NBA club, but will likely rather be drafted initially as a bench player and could see starting minutes within a year or two in the league. His explosiveness and defensive prowess give him the ability to make an immediate impact, and he could be a key component for a team searching for the right role player to take them to the next level. Although his athleticism will allow him to fit on any team, here are some of the teams most likely to take McDaniels.
Phoenix Suns (pick #18)- The Suns showed a great turnaround this season, going 48-34 and missing the playoffs by only one game. Their offense was strong, finishing within the top third of the league in points per game, but finishing in the bottom third when it came to points allowed. The Suns do not have any players similar to McDaniels, and even have several players larger than KJ playing less physical roles. In his rookie season, McDaniels could easily give the Suns the added defensive intensity and strong rebounding performances that could help them over the playoff hump.
Oklahoma City Thunder (pick #21)- Although the Thunder rank within the top half of the league defensively, their last series against the Clippers and current struggle with the Spurs show they are by no means a defensively strong team. Their post defense with Ibaka, Perkins and Collison is very stout, but the back court defense is awful. As the former defensive special Thabo Sephalosha continues to age and become an offensive stumbling block, the Thunder will need to make a move to sure up their weaknesses if they ever want to make it to another NBA Finals. McDaniels would instantly improve the defense on the perimeter, as he is able to guard almost any position on the court. He would also be able to add an offensive game that could reap the benefits of playing alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. McDaniels would make the Thunder arguably the most athletic team in the league.
Memphis Grizzlies (pick #22)- Many experts have McDaniels going to Memphis with the 22nd pick. The Grizzlies have arguably the best big man combination in the league with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and great guard play from Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Courtney Lee. However, what they lack is a player in between these two categories. The only player of any real significance with height is Tayshaun Prince, who has little to no impact on the defensive end. McDaniels could prove to be the perfect piece to complete an already strong Memphis defense and could slow down players like Durant and Westbrook who have plagued them for several years. For a Grizzlies team that seems to be just one player short of making a finals run, McDaniels could be the ideal choice late in the first round.