The Hornets put in a valiant effort in their first round playoff matchup against the Miami Heat. They came up short, though the series was pushed to the maximum seven games. Their first round elimination was disappointing for the team and fans alike, but a trip to the playoffs was well earned. Daniels played a minor role in both and seems set to likely make yet another move in an already turbulent career.
The shooting guard heads into the offseason without a clear path going forward. It has been a strange trip to follow the career of the ex-Virginia Commonwealth University standout. Daniels started his career with the Houston Rockets, spending a considerable amount of his first season with the Rio Grand Valley Vipers of the NBA D-League. Interestingly, while he spent a lot of time in the D-League and only played in five games that first year, it was also during his rookie campaign that he logged his only career start.
While Daniels hasn't returned to the D-League, it seems like his path since then has been worse. Doomed to come off the bench, Troy has worn several different jerseys in a very short career. After that first season with the Rockets, he started the following season in Houston before being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, for whom he played 19 games before being traded again to the Charlotte Hornets.
After finishing out the 2014-15 season with Charlotte, he was afforded some stability in 2015-16 where he played for the Hornets the entire season, seeing action in 43 games during the regular season and four games in the playoffs.
Daniels earned $947,276 in 2015-16 and probably will not command a particularly strong market for his services in the upcoming offseason. And if there is, the Hornets have the opportunity to match, as Daniels is a restricted free agent.
With the shift of the modern NBA to 3-point shooting and up tempo offense, it's possible that a player like Daniels is just waiting to break out. In his limited playing time, he already has started to do so. In 2015-16, Daniels shot 48.4 percent on 3-point attempts. He led the entire league in 3-point shooting accuracy for players who were under that 500-minute mark for most of the season. Indeed, shooting over 48 percent from deep is valuable to basically every team in the modern NBA, including Charlotte.
The Hornets roster was full of long-range threats in 2015-16. Marvin Williams far surpassed his previous career-high marks for 3-point makes, as did Charlotte as a whole. They drafted Frank Kaminsky, a big with above-average fundamentals and the ability to stretch his shooting range out to the 3-point line. Plus, the Hornets already had Kemba Walker. Adding Courtney Lee mid-way through the season just added even more shooting to an already deadly accurate roster.
And maybe it was that depth which caused Daniels to get a little lost in the shuffle. He averaged 11.1 minutes per game during the regular season, which dipped to 4.5 during the playoffs. There just weren't enough minutes to go around, even with an injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist during most of the regular season and a banged up Nicolas Batum during portions of their playoff series against the Heat.
Over his 43 appearances in 2015-16 for Charlotte, Daniels came up a little short of the numbers he posted in limited time with the Hornets in 2014-15. His per 36 and per game numbers both come up short. Of course, the caveat is the limited sample size of just 11 games for Charlotte last season. One important unit of measurement that smiles on Daniels is his shooting accuracy. His scoring may be down over the previous set of games for the Hornets, but he is converting at a higher rate on the opportunities that he is getting. This might be an indicator that Daniels is more efficient given an exact drop in his usage year-over-year of one percent from last season.
To get a better idea of what Daniels can do for a team when given the opportunity, I will refer back to this video from Charlotte's April 11 matchup against the Boston Celtics.
Note that Daniels missed two shots, one of which involved him coming off the dribble. However, when he was able to simply spot up, he knocked them down.
A better measure might be to look at the overall Hornets roster this year that feature Batum and Jeremy Lin. Lin serves as a capable backup point guard, but he can also be featured in the shooting guard slot. That is a position that Batum can also occupy, depending on the health of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The vast spoils of talent on the Hornets roster is a recent, but good, problem for the team while it makes the individual case of Daniels more complicated.
The Hornets are focused on re-signing Batum as their first offseason priority, but they will also look to retain Lin and big man extraordinaire Al Jefferson has indicated he would take a paycut to remain in Charlotte. With all of these options on the table, the other rumored want for the Hornets front office is a big man a la Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside or whoever else an unfounded rumor can be scared up about during the down news cycle of the summer that is looming.
This is both good and bad for the nomadic shooter. Young players thrive in a consistent environment and that has been absent from the early years of Daniels' NBA career. Still, with his clearly defined skill set — offense, more specifically 3-point offense — there should always be a job for the low-key guard.
Assuming that Lee isn't back with Charlotte next season, the Hornets will look to lock up Batum and his high price tag while chasing at least one other bigger spend to add for the 2016-17 roster and having a player capable of contributing the way that Daniels does while not impacting the bottom line in any significant way could be very attractive, but more attractive than he will be to other teams? That remains to be seen. Head coach Steve Clifford seems to have started to lean on Daniels a bit after losing all faith in Jeremy Lamb.
While Lamb started strong and faded, Daniels stayed consistent in his skills as he started to take more playing time away from Lamb as the season progressed. That would seem to be favorable to Daniels heading into the offseason. His performance easily outshined that of Lamb and the freshness in memory of how the season ended could have Daniels back in a Charlotte uniform for the 2016-17 season.
Hopefully, Daniels will be back in Charlotte as a bench player where his prolific shooting ability would help the second and third units maintain continuity with the offensive philosophy of the starting five. No matter if he ends up with the Hornets or another team in 2016, he would benefit from consistency and the opportunity to expand on his talented shooting ability.