A month-by-month look at the Rockets' season-saving secret weapon's rise.
Brian Kotloff, NBADLeague.com
Many basketball fans heard the name Troy Daniels for the first time on Friday night. But the little-used rookie's season-saving three-pointer did not come as a surprise to anyone who's followed the NBA D-League this season, when Daniels had been unleashed as a long-range sniper seemingly created in Rockets GM Daryl Morey's laboratory.
Daniels broke the league's single-season three-point record barely more than halfway through the season. He participated in the league's three-point competition at All-Star Weekend. He took 78% of his shot attempts from beyond the arc -- a number now up to 81% (663 out of 847) after his game-winner in Portland.
Here's a look at Daniels' incredible season timeline, from anonymous undrafted free agent to NBA Playoff hero:
An undrafted free agent out of VCU, the 22-year-old Daniels lasted 17 days with his first NBA team, spending training camp with Charlotte but never playing in an exhibition game. He was signed by the Rockets a week later.
Troy Daniels Player Bio
The Rockets waived Daniels four days before the start of the regular season. Fortunately, NBA D-League rules allow for three training camp cuts to be tabbed as "affiliate players" and signed to an NBA team's minor-league club. That landed Daniels on the RGV Vipers, who had hired head coach Nevada Smith from Division-III Keystone College to take their three-ball-heavy attack to the extreme.
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The so-called "Vip3rs" came out of the gates firing, but it was clear from the get-go that Daniels was a rare breed even on a team jacking up nearly 50 treys per game. The first 18 shots of his professional career came from three-point range.
And in his fourth career game, he came off the bench to light up the Texas Legends, contributing to a stretch in which RGV made seven straight threes in the span of 2 minutes, 33 seconds after being heckled by Legends head coach Eduardo Najera. Including his 7-of-12 effort on this special night, Daniels had made 27-of-52 threes through his first four pro games.
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In one of the best games of the NBA D-League season, Daniels brought his three-point barrage into uncharted territory: double digits. He drilled 10-of-19 from deep en route to 32 points, but the Vipers fell in overtime, 138-131, as No. 1 Prospect Pierre Jackson scored 39 points on 15/24 himself. It wasn't even Daniels' season-high in three-point attempts; he launched 21 in a game twice within the next eight days.
With his 153rd trey, Daniels breaks the NBA D-League single-season three-point record in just the 27th game of a 50-game season, topping Andy Rautins' mark of 152 set last season. The Warriors' Stephen Curry set the NBA's
three-point record with 272 in 78 games in 2012-13; Daniels' pace of 5.7 per game would project to 442 makes over 78 games.
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Houston called up Daniels after he spent more than three months with their NBA D-League affiliate, but the Rockets' chase of their secret weapon began long before. Their front-office had identified Daniels as a potential NBA D-League draft pick during his senior season at VCU, according to Rockets personnel scout/Vipers Director of Scouting Jim Paulis
: "We always have the D-League draft in mind."
Daniels' experience in Shaka Smart's "Havoc" system prepared him for the organization's fast-paced style, and his experience in RGV -- where the Vipers use the same terminology and many of the same plays as the Rockets -- made his transition to Houston seamless.
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Daniels' first game with the Rockets didn't even register as a footnote, as he played the final 1 minute, 32 seconds of a 101-89 win over the Orlando Magic and did not record any other statistics. He scored his first career points -- naturally, a three -- in Houston's next game two days later.
At about 2:30 p.m. CT, Daniels completed what would be his last game with the Vipers, a 145-142 overtime loss
in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series with the Iowa Energy. Minutes later, he boarded a plane bound for Houston along with teammate Robert Covington, arriving at around 6:30 p.m. CT for a 7 p.m. game. He played 13 minutes in that nightcap, scoring 3 points on 1/5 shooting from three.
Starting alongside Vipers alums Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones, Daniels was let loose in what appeared to be a meaningless playoff tune-up for the Rockets. Six more threes later -- after shooting 8/16 overall and 6/11 from deep in 44 minutes -- he'd given Houston's coaching staff something to think about when choosing the playoff roster.
Daniels' life as an unknown ended at 1:36 a.m. ET, and soon he was the No. 1 topic trending on Twitter in the United States
. The stuff NBA D-League dreams are made of: