Daniels Quietly Picking Up Steam At NBA Summer League

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

Through three games in Las Vegas, Bruno Caboclo has been the main story for the Toronto Raptors. Attention wise, Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira has backed him up. Flying under the radar, but piecing together a pair of noteworthy performances in two Raptors losses, is second-round pick DeAndre Daniels.

The 6-foot-9 forward out of Connecticut had 12 points and five rebounds in Saturday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets. In Monday’s blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Daniels led the Raptors with 16 points, six rebounds and two steals. Over the two games, Daniels shot 10-for-21 from the floor and made four of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc.”

"Whatever the coaches tell me to do, I’m going to do it,” Daniels said. "I’m just trying to go out there and compete. My main focus is trying to get better on defence when we play on the floor, just rotate and not try to be in the lane for three seconds, try to get in and out. I feel like that’s the biggest difference I’m trying to get adjusted to.”

Related: Raptors Prep For Tournament Stage | Tuesday's Practice Video

While Daniels will need to work on gaining size to be able to compete on the NBA-level, his skill level, particularly his ability to handle the ball, has impressed summer league head coach Jesse Mermuys.

“I like what Dre’s done,” Mermuys said. “I really do. The biggest thing with him is obviously the physicality and his shot selection, learning how to fit within the team regardless of what position I play him at. But I like what I’ve seen. He’s got a much better handle than what you’d expect for a guy that’s played inside and is trying to develop as a three man.”

Dwane Casey pointed to the coaching and experience he received from playing with the 2014 NCAA Champion UConn Huskies as a reason why Daniels has been able to step in and contribute.

“He had great coaching in Connecticut,” Casey said. “He’s ahead [of Caboclo] just because he’s older. He had a lot more teaching in a championship program so he’s ahead. With him also he’s got to get stronger, but he’s doing a lot of good things on the court which I think in time will translate to the NBA game.”

Daniels called summer league a learning experience and said the biggest adjustment has been learning defensive techniques and rotations. After Monday’sgame, Mermuys discussed why young players can struggle to pick up things on the defensive end of the floor when they make the jump to the NBA.

“To the naked eye, it’s just basketball but when you coach in the NBA and play in the NBA you understand how technical it is,” Mermuys said. “It’s a very technical, very difficult game to learn because the players are so great the schemes have to be really impressive to stop those players. 

“No one can stop anyone one on one, especially with the rules. There’s a lot of terms, terminology, coverages. It’s not just playing basketball. You’ve got to know what you’re doing while you’re trying to play as well as you can.”

Going into the tournament stage of summer league, Mermuys will shorten his rotation. During Tuesday’s practice the team scrimmaged and played two games in addition to going through a lot of individual drill work. Come tournament time, Mermuys is looking to see if his team can look more like the squad that won their opening game against the Lakers.

“I’m going to try to win that game. [We] take a 20-point blowout and then we take a 30-point blowout, we definitely wanted to see everybody play, everybody get an opportunity. I think at this point we want to go out and win a game. From that standpoint maybe a shorter rotation. Guys may not get as many minutes as they were accustomed to the first three games. I’m going to do what I can scheme wise, coaching wise, ATO wise to get a win.”