K.J. McDaniels | 2014 NBA Draft Profile

K.J. McDaniels is projected to be a late-first round pick, but one thing he has that some of the other wings in this first round don't possess is a reputation for thriving on the defensive end of the court.
Tyler Smith/Getty Images
by Mark Remme
Web Editor
@markremme

Clemson | Junior | Forward | 6-foot-6 | 200 lbs

2013-14: 33.7 MPG, 17.1 PPG, .459 FG%, .304 3FG%, .842 FT%, 7.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.1 SPG

2012-13: 27.5 MPG, 10.9 PPG, .433 FG%, .333 3FG%, .684 FT%, 5.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.1 SPG

2011-12: 10.1 MPG, 3.9 PPG, .454 FG%, .280 3FG%, .479 FT%, 1.8 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.3 SPG

Editor’s Note: Throughout June, Timberwolves.com’s Draft coverage presented by Coors Light will profile a series of prospects that could be available at Minnesota’s No. 13 pick, or if they choose to be mobile during the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26. Part XIII highlights Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels, who opted to leave the Tigers after his junior season.

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K.J. McDaniels took big strides in his game during his junior season at Clemson. He leaped up to 17.1 points per game despite not necessarily being known as a consistent offensive threat, his rebounding and assist numbers each bumped up to career highs and his free-throw shooting jumped from 47.9 percent as a freshman to 84.2 percent in his third year.

So the offensive part of McDaniels’ game is continuing to evolve and grow. That part of his game will be the focal point of NBA teams’ questions as he goes through the Draft process, but what won’t be questioned is McDaniels’ athletic ability and his defensive presence.

He’s currently projected in the latter third of the first round, but his skill set on the defensive end definitely helps him stand out from other wings in this year’s Draft. He said it’s something he thinks he can bring to an NBA team right away.

“I feel like I did a pretty decent job defending a few of the bigger guys,” McDaniels said about his performance at the Draft Combine last month. “I felt like I shot the ball, you know, better than some people thought I would. This is my first time out there, so I was a little shaken at first but I got comfortable and went out there and just played.”

His defense, ability to finish lobs and his presence on the offensive boards will all be strong selling points for a team interested in McDaniels. And depending on which team he ends up on, he could very well carve out a solid niche role in a rotation because of those very skills.

He credits his time at Clemson for helping him get to this point, and he said this is by no means the end of his growth. He said it’s a work in progress, and his ability to improve from year-to-year is a big reason why he’s in position to be drafted this summer.

“I feel like [playing at Clemson] helped a lot,” McDaniels said. “I mean, my coaches, they told me what I need to work on. I did a lot of working out. Just doing a lot to shape my game and overall good play.”

STRENGTHS

McDaniels brings length and athleticism to the table. He’s a leaper, which helps him not only as a rebounder but also as a guy who can throw down in transition. He grabbed 86 of his 255 rebounds on the offensive end as a junior, meaning he has the ability to help teams extend possessions. McDaniels has the chance to be a sound defensive player in the league. His length and physical tools allow him to guard multiple positions, and he’s pretty solid at playing on-ball defense as well as reading screens. Offensively, while he is not a polished jump shooter, he improved his 3-point shot and greatly improved his free-throw percentage over his three years in college.

WEAKNESSES

McDaniels is not a polished offensive player. Ye definitely improved in certain areas over his three seasons at Clemson—including spiking up to 17.1 points per game as a junior—but he still only shoots about 46 percent from the field and hovers around 30 percent from 3-point range. His jump shooting isn’t consistent in form or production, and another question surrounding his offensive game is his shot selection and decision making. McDaniels needs to get to the point where he can keep defenses honest. And at 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds, he can continue working on his strength to solidify his ability to hold his own on both ends of the court. He'll likely be undersized height-wize, but his reported 6-foot-11 wingspan helps bridge that gap. 

THEY SAID IT

“I feel like I have a lot of room to improve. I feel like that’s why I’m here, to get better. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of improvement over the past few years. There’s no stopping improvement.” — Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels

WHAT HE CAN BRING TO THE WOLVES

The Wolves could use a boost in the athleticism department, and McDaniels would provide that type of boost for any team that selects him. He’s a high-flyer at times, and that would work well for a team that can get the ball up court in transition. He also has pretty solid length and lateral quickness, which could help him become a solid defensive player in the league. McDaniels, unlike a lot of other wings in this draft, has less of the spotlight on his offensive skills and more on his defensive ability. That could be what separates him from the others in this draft class.