Australian NBA Draft prospect, Dyson Daniels has joined the New Orleans Pelicans after being selected with the eighth pick in the NBA Draft on Friday.
Daniels’ selection means an Aussie has been taken in the lottery in back-to-back NBA Drafts after Josh Giddey was taken at pick six by the Oklahoma City Thunder last year.
Daniels entered pre-draft workouts and the NBA combine projected to be a late lottery pick, however, he impressed NBA teams once they had a chance to look at him one on one, and propelled up the draft boards.
What particularly caught scouts’ eyes was his ability to play on both ends of the floor, with excellent on-ball defence, elite passing ability, court vision, and feel for the game.
Daniels showed this during his season with the G-League Ignite, where he led his team in assists and steals, averaging 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.9 steals per game.
Daniels ended up at the Pelicans at pick eight, with the team having the Los Angeles Lakers’ first-round pick this season, which they were given as part of the Anthony Davis trade.
The 19-year-old finds himself in a unique situation, with most lottery picks joining teams in rebuilding situations, the Pelicans are expected to be a top six team in the Western Conference next season.
The Pelicans are fresh off making the playoffs this past season after finishing as the ninth seed in the Western Conference and then winning both their play-in tournament games to face Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs. While the team was unable to progress, ultimately losing four games to two, they showed plenty of signs to have pundits excited for they could be in the 2022/23 season.
From the jump, Daniels should be able to make an impact for the Pelicans as a wing defender, standing at 6’7 with a 6’11 wingspan. He has strong defensive versatility, able to defend both guards and wings, an asset that has proven to be crucial in today’s NBA.
With the Pelicans already having defenders who can guard multiple positions with last season’s second-round pick Herbert Jones, Jose Alvarado, and Brandon Ingram. Daniels alongside them should make for a scary line-up for opposing offences.
With New Orleans having a defensive rating of 112.0 last season, ranking them 18th, expect that to improve next season with the defensive depth it now has.
Much like fellow Australian, Josh Giddey, Daniels has a similar skill set when it comes to his passing ability. Daniels is most dangerous off the pick and roll, where his size allows him to see over defenders, able to make quick decisions to pass to cutters, open players on the perimeter or score himself.
With Daniels teaming up with Zion Williamson next season, the two could be a deadly partnership in the pick and roll, with Zion’s ability to finish at the rim.
Due to his long wingspan, Daniels is also a competent rebounder which he highlighted this past season in the G-League when he grabbed 18 rebounds in a single game. His rebounding paired with his passing will allow his Pelicans teammates to get out in transition for easy fast-break opportunities.
Daniels will not need to carry much of an offensive scoring load with players such as Williamson, Ingram and CJ McCollum being part of the Pelicans. This will allow the guard to develop to life in the NBA at his own pace, not having to force things on the offensive end.
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Fit with the Pelicans rotation
With the Pelicans already having a strong roster, Daniels will begin his NBA career coming off the bench, backing up Ingram or Jones at the shooting guard and small forward positions.
He will also get some time playing at point guard, giving the team size at that position and allowing McCollum and Ingram the opportunity to play off-ball.
With McCollum and Ingram having to create most of the offence last season, especially during the playoffs with Devonte Graham losing minutes, Daniels will be a welcome addition as someone off the bench who can give the team more play-making.
The defensive versatility that Daniels has will allow Pelicans coach Willie Green to play a multitude of line-ups. The Pelicans could opt for a small-ball line-up featuring McCollum at the point, Daniels at the two, Ingram and Jones as the forwards and Williamson at centre.
What he needs to improve
The largest area of Daniels’ game that he will need to work on is his perimeter shooting, after going at 25.5 per cent last season in the G League.
Being unable to score the ball from behind the arc could be what makes or breaks Daniels during his rookie season, with the skill being so important in the modern NBA for guards. While he was unable to make many threes, the 19-year-old was still willing to attempt them, averaging 3.6 attempts a game, a positive sign that he can develop his shot.
If Daniels can shoot in the low 30s, this will make all the difference as defenders will have to respect his ability to score, opening more offensively for the Pelicans.
If Daniels is unable to shoot the ball he will be played off the floor, with Willie Green having to opt for more reliable scorers from deep.
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