Year In Review: Troy Daniels
Reflecting upon Troy Daniels' past, present and future following the 2013-14 campaign
From D-League curiosity to playoff hero, Troy Daniels enjoyed quite an eventful year during his debut campaign in the NBA. There’s no need for nuance when describing what Daniels’ game is all about. Simply put, the 22-year-old guard is a gunner through and through, pairing a lightning quick release with uncanny accuracy and confidence, allowing him the ability to rain in 3s from just about anywhere on the court.
Undrafted out of Virginia Commonwealth University, Daniels began the 2013-14 season in the D-league with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers where he fit right in and wasted no time shattering records with his prolific shooting prowess from beyond the arc. His shot chart while with the Vipers is a wonder to behold: more than 78 percent of his field goal attempts were of the 3-point variety and more than 40 percent of those long distance bombs found the bottom of the net. Those numbers only managed to become more extreme when he got called up to the big club: of Daniels’ 48 shot attempts with the Rockets this season (playoffs included), a whopping 83 percent of them were launched from downtown. Oh, and just in case you were wondering: Daniels drained precisely half of those shots. Suffice to say, the bright lights did little to dull the talents of this soft-spoken, sweet stroking and wholly unflappable rookie (just ask Mo Williams).
The 6-4, 204-pound guard first raised eyebrows at the NBA level on April 9 when his remarkable fourth quarter sharpshooting managed to help transform a blowout at the hands of the Denver Nuggets into a startlingly competitive affair down the stretch. Daniels then made the most of the opportunity presented to him in the Rockets’ regular season finale when he parlayed 44 minutes of playing time into a 22-point, five-assist performance against the New Orleans Pelicans (a showing that included six made 3-pointers, natch).
As if you don’t already know. In Daniels’ first ever playoff appearance, the rookie coolly splashed in a triple with 11 seconds remaining in overtime of Game 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers to rescue a broken possession and break the deadlock on the scoreboard, helping to lift Houston to a heart stopping 121-116 victory.
Two nights later, Daniels again made his presence felt, scoring 17 points in 21 minutes of action while shooting 5-of-7 from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
THE NEXT STEP
Like all rookies, what Daniels needs most of all is time: time to get stronger physically, to further familiarize himself with NBA schemes and strategy, and to build upon the on- and off-court bonds with the teammates who figure to play a profound role in his overall growth and development as a player.
Daniels knows exactly who he is and now the rest of the league does, too. Gone are his days of sneaking up on people - he'll be on the opposition's scouting report from now on. His ticket to receiving a regular NBA paycheck will always hinge upon his deft shooting touch, but the more he’s able to add to his off-the-bounce game, the better he’ll be able to make opposing defenses pay for being overly aggressive with their closeouts.
That said, so long as he plies his trade alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden, much of Daniels’ heavy lifting will simply come down to his mastery of the subtle art of finding the right spot to set up shop along the perimeter; those places where the passing lanes are clear and the otherwise overwhelmed defenders are few and far between. Watching Daniels align himself on the same side of the court as Howard when Houston’s big man was posting up in the playoffs offered a delightful glimpse into the pick-your-poison dilemmas Daniels can help create, and similar joy can be found when Daniels slides over to the weak-side and makes himself available as an outlet amid Harden’s non-stop forays to the rim.
Defensively, Daniels drew praise from Houston’s coaching staff for his toughness and willingness to work. Those attributes will serve him well because he’ll frequently find himself undersized against the vast majority of the league’s two-guards and at a quickness disadvantage when matched up against ones. Non-stop effort and a rock solid grasp of the team’s defensive principles are a must for Daniels going forward.