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CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 18: Dyson Daniels #3 of Team Barry drives to the basket during the 2022 Clorox Rising Stars Game as part of 2022 NBA All Star Weekend on February 18, 2022 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dyson Daniels Q&A with Dakota Schmidt

To gain more insight on New Orleans lottery pick Dyson Daniels, Pelicans.com caught up with Dakota Schmidt, who has been writing about the G League since 2012. Schmidt started TrueHoop’s “D League Digest” and moved to the popular site Ridiculous Upside in 2013. This year Schmidt started the “Call-Up,” a newsletter dedicated to the G League and the world of basketball as a whole. The newsletter has an emphasis on player film breakdowns and features recent interviews with G League coaches and executives.

Pelicans.com: Dyson Daniels seemed to be a name casual basketball fans probably didn’t hear much throughout the G League season, but then as the draft approached, he was commonly projected as a lottery pick. What was your reaction to him being selected at No. 8 overall by New Orleans?

Schmidt: I was really excited when I saw it. Been a fan of Dyson’s game dating back to when I first watched his film from the 2021 Australian U-20 tournament and NBL1 (Australia’s equivalent to the G League). His mix of height, passing acumen, ability to use his frame on defense, and smarts as an off-ball player are what intrigued me. Seeing his development as a prospect during his run with the Ignite, and subsequent rise to being a lottery pick were amazing to watch.

Pelicans.com: Pelicans GM Trajan Langdon noted after Thursday’s draft that New Orleans saw a major jump in performance by Daniels over the course of the 2021-22 season. What were some of the areas he showed the most progress between the fall and spring?

Schmidt: It's most definitely his shooting. When it comes to his work from beyond the arc, his 3-point percentage grew from 26% on 51 total attempts during the league's Showcase Cup run from November to December. That percentage improved to 35% from deep on 49 total attempts during the G League Ignite Tour that ran from January to March. Along with the steady growth in that percentage, Daniels’ development as a shooter was seen by how he became more comfortable with taking his own off-the-dribble shots as his footwork was more fluid than it was in November and December. The growth that he showed during his run with the Ignite makes me excited about his fit with the Pelicans, who have Fred Vinson on staff. Honestly, Fred stands alongside San Antonio’s Chip Engelland as one of the best shooting coaches in the world of basketball.

Pelicans.com: ESPN analyst Jay Bilas mentioned during the draft that one of the most impressive aspects of Daniels’ game is his prowess at the defensive end (he called it “defensive chops”). What did Daniels show on defense that made him rocket up draft boards? How do you think it will translate to the NBA?

Schmidt: I definitely think that it wouldn't be too long until Dyson is capable of depending anywhere from shooting guards to power forwards. That’s due to how comfortable the 19-year-old already is with utilizing his 6-7, 200-pound frame and 6-10 wingspan to stay in front of players on the perimeter and prevent them from getting easy drives or shots from deep. One area that he’ll need to grow at is being more comfortable with using his frame and get in front of drivers to get verticality. That would boost his defensive potential more as the use of verticality hinders the look that the offensive player has from around the rim.

Pelicans.com: Daniels is considered a developmental player offensively. What are areas offensively he might be able to help the Pelicans as a rookie, along with aspects he must improve?

Schmidt: In terms of areas where he can help the Pelicans, Dyson is really fantastic at facilitating within the flow of an offense. What I mean by that is that he’s able to quickly process his surroundings and find open shooters or cutters. With offensive weapons like McCollum, Ingram, and potentially Zion Williamson working alongside him, that skill could really benefit the Pels if he’s working in the first unit.

In terms of growth areas, working with Coach Vinson to continue to improve that jumper should be priority No. 1. Also, Dyson tended to lose control of the ball when he was heavily guarded or had to fight through weird angles.

Pelicans.com: What’s one thing fans might be surprised to know about Daniels?

Schmidt: Before he became one of the top Australian hoops prospects, Dyson was a talented Aussie Rules football player. Back in 2015 when he was only 12, he had already won some awards in the world of junior Aussie Rules football and was playing on a U14 squad. But fortunately for Pelicans fans, he decided to follow in his dad’s footsteps by focusing on basketball.