Troy Daniels Signs with Houston Rockets: Call-Up Breakdown
For signs that their NBA D-League experiment is working, the Houston Rockets can point first to starting power forward Terrence Jones, who just last season played 24 games for the affiliate RGV Vipers. They can point to current rookies Isaiah Canaan and Robert Covington, who can hit the ground running in Houston after gaining their footing in RGV. Or they can point to Patrick Patterson or James Anderson or Patrick Beverley or any other players their system produced that have contributed to the parent club over their four-plus years as a single affiliate.
But with Friday's news that he's been signed and assigned, Troy Daniels becomes Exhibit A for not just the Rockets but the entire NBA of how to use the NBA D-League to develop players.
The organization has had Daniels on its radar since last college basketball season, when he was a senior at VCU, one of many players Houston's scouts pegged as a potential D-Leaguer. "We always have the D-League draft in mind," Rockets personnel scout/Vipers Director of Scouting Jim Paulis said in January. They liked not just his elite shooting ability -- both the volume (a school-record 124 threes) and efficiency (40%) -- but his experience in Shaka Smart's fast-paced "Havoc" system, which would prepare him to run-and-gun in RGV.
Daniels was such a good fit that the Rockets signed him for training camp in October and then (per league rules) tabbed him as one of three cuts who they could retain on their NBA D-League affiliate. He's since become the "Moreyball" prototype, a singular weapon that shows how dangerous the Vipers' high-octane attack can be with the right talent in place, and a walking example of why it may represent the future of the NBA. Consider:
--Daniels was scoring 23.3 points per game, ranking sixth in the league, while taking 78.2% of his shots from three-point range (see season shot chart below). That made his lackluster field-goal percentage (42.4%) essentially irrelevant, because his effective field-goal percentage -- accounting for the increased value of three-pointers -- was 58.4%, seventh among starting perimeter players.
--He took the most inefficient shot in basketball, the mid-range jumper, just 38 times all season -- compared to 424 three-point attempts; he got to the free-throw line and converted at a high rate (4.2 attempts per game, 83.5% shooting); and he rarely turned the ball over (8.2 times per 100 possessions, fourth among starters) because all he typically had to do was catch and shoot.
Most importantly, Daniels will have little adjustment to make to the Rockets; that's the point of syncing their systems, after all. The Vipers use the same exact terminology as their parent club -- to call out different actions such as a dribble hand-off, a pin-down screen or a defensive switch -- and borrow several of their offensive sets. Both teams rank first in three-point attempts and last in mid-range field goal attempts in their respective leagues, with the Vipers first in offensive rating and second in pace and the Rockets fifth and seventh in those categories.
Of course, now Daniels will have to translate his success to the next level, get his shot off against NBA-level athletes and adapt to a highly reduced role. He'll also have to overcome his lack of ideal size (6-4, 200) and prove that he has the ball-handling and defensive abilities of an NBA 2-guard.
But those are questions for another day. What this news means above all is that the ties between the NBA and NBA D-League are only getting stronger. "We view RGV as an extension of the Rockets," Paulis explained, "and we want to hire folks as part of the RGV organization with the idea that they can become Rockets employees at some point."