A Closer Look At The Impact of K.J. McDaniels

by Max Rappaport
Sixers.com Writer

K.J. McDaniels has only appeared in 16 NBA games, but he’s already had enough highlight plays to fill a robust end-of-season reel.

But it isn’t just his skywalking dunks and emphatic blocks that have made McDaniels one of the standouts of this year’s draft class. Statistical measures – both traditional and advanced – back up the outstanding impact the 6’6” swingman has had through the first fifth of this season.

Among all rookies, the 2014 ACC Defensive Player of the Year has logged the sixth-most minutes per game (24.0) and has averaged the third-most points (10.2 PPG), ninth-most rebounds (3.2 RPG), and is tied with teammate Nerlens Noel for most blocks (1.3 BPG). That last number, more than any other, has turned heads around the league.

In the last 20 years, only three players 6’6” or shorter have averaged at least 1.3 blocks per game – Clarence Weatherspoon, Vince Carter, and Dwyane Wade. All three did so while logging 30+ minutes per game, while McDaniels has maintained that pace despite playing 24.0 minutes per game. In fact, among players who’ve averaged at least 20 minutes per game, he’s blocked the most shots per 36 minutes (1.9) of any his height since Julius Erving in 1983-84.

His defensive impact hasn’t been limited just to blocks. According to NBA.com’s player tracking data, McDaniels holds opposing players to a shooting percentage 3.6% lower than their average when he is defending them. Around the rim, his presence is felt even more so. On shots less than six feet from the rim, opposing players shoot 51.1%, down from an average of 59.9% (-8.7% differential). It should be noted that those two differentials improve to -12.4% and -17.8%, respectively, in the fourth quarter of games.

Over McDaniels’ last five games, he’s seen his playing time increase to 28.3 minutes per game and has made his presence felt on both ends of the floor. During the stretch, he’s averaging 14.0 points on 46.3% from the floor, 43.8% from long range, and a perfect 13-of-13 from the free-throw line to go along with 4.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.0 blocks per game. In his last two games, he’s scored 39 points (46.9 FG%, 50.0 3P%), pulled down 19 rebounds (12 offensive), and blocked three shots.

On Saturday, he had his best performance as a pro, notching game and career highs in points (21) and rebounds (13) in a 110-103 loss to the Mavericks. In 31 minutes on the floor, he held the players he defended to 3-of-8 shooting (37.5 FG%), a differential of -12.6% from their season averages. His nine offensive rebounds and two blocks made him the first guard or swingman to hit those marks in a game since Dominique Wilkins during the 1990-91 season. Saturday’s offensive rebounding total was padded by one possession in which he notched four in a row.

Here’s what that looked like:

And what it looked like in the play-by-play log: 

tl;dr: K.J. McDaniels is really, really fun.