*Carol Ann from Poltergeist II voice* they’re baaaack.
Welcome to the first Buzzworthy Picks scouting report for the NBA Draft class of 2022! Most prospects that are projected to be taken in the general area of where the Hornets select will be profiled in this series, as well as some that may not appear to be “available” for Charlotte to draft but pique our interest nonetheless. The Hornets are slated to pick 13th, 15th and 45th prior to tonight’s lottery, so the lot of this year’s Buzzworthy Picks will be mid-first and second round prospects.
Let’s get started with the premier G League Ignite prospect in the class: Dyson Daniels.
Height: 6 feet 6 inches
Weight: 199 pounds
Wingspan: 6 feet 11 inches (reported)
Prior to joining G League Ignite, Daniels had spent his entire life in Australia. He grew up in Bendigo, a city located about 95 miles northwest of Melbourne. Daniels’ first taste of professional basketball came when he signed with the Bendigo Braves of the NBL1, a team that his father Ricky Daniels, a North Carolina State alum, once played for.
Along with playing for the Braves, Daniels has spent time with the NBA Global Academy at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra as well as the Australian national team, and even considered attending college in the United States before opting for the professional route. Arkansas, Colorado, NC State and Oklahoma were among the schools to recruit Daniels before he headed to Walnut Creek, Calif. to join the Ignite program.
Strengths: decision-making/playmaking feel, ball-handling, defensive versatility, interior finishing
The offensive traits that sticks out the most when watching Daniels are his vision, feel and overall playmaking abilities. While not a “true point guard,” he often initiated offense for Ignite and the versatility he offers as a jumbo ball-handler that consistently makes accurate, quick reads out of primary and secondary actions is a perfect fit in today’s league. Rarely does he outright “miss” a read and though some typical young playmaker mistakes will surface in the form of an errant or overly-optimistic pass, Daniels has shown he can capably read the floor in a system similar to those he’ll be apart of in the NBA.
Daniels displays impressive touch on some of the passes he makes. A controlled handle, the patience to allow plays to develop and reasonable quickness lend themselves nicely to dump-off passes on drives, where he’s also a creative finisher that can punish defenses with his scoring, as well as passes with either hand off of a live dribble. The clip below is a good example of these things, plus a beautiful finish from Fanbo Zeng. Daniels counters his defender’s good positioning with a tight spin move and immediately drops the ball off to Zeng upon seeing the help defender.
An argument could be made that Daniels is the best perimeter defender in this draft class. He averaged out at 2 steals per game between the Showcase and Ignite Tour schedules and was incredibly effective as a rebounder to boot, utilizing his length and knack for finding open space in tight quarters to outsmart veteran G League bigs. On top of the ability to battle on the defensive end, Daniels has the energy and drive to do so; he’s engaged, plays hard and seems to have a keen understanding as to how impactful his defense can be for his team with how he carries himself on the court.
A recent interview with ESPN’s Mike Schmitz spawned a report that Daniels had shot up to 6-foot-8 while preparing for the draft, adding a whole new layer to his defensive upside. He’s already capable of switching across perimeter spots and guarding multiple positions — if he’s truly grown to the size of a legitimate forward, he’ll climb even higher up draft boards. The versatility offered by a 6-foot-8 point forward that can create offense going to the rim and guard four positions effectively will be tough to pass on once the top players in this class are off the board.
While Daniels is no layup artist yet and doesn’t possess eye-popping burst, he finishes around the basket with consistency and has the speed and savvy to use a wide variety of setup moves to get to his spots. He converted on 59.8 percent of his attempts from within five feet of the rim and 46.2 percent in the 5-9 foot range, displaying a level of finesse and touch that should translate to the NBA pretty quickly. Ignite created offense by getting him going downhill, sending him towards the rim on off-ball cuts, occasionally allowing him to isolate and get a defender on his hip, and even putting his back to the basket and posting up from time to time. In the following clip, Daniels beats his defender, pulls back and lets him fly by, keeps himself square and steps through light contact for the and-one.
Areas to improve: shooting efficiency, finishing through contact
The glaring red flag in Daniels’ statistical profile is his woeful free throw percentage. During the G League Showcase season, Daniels converted 73.7 percent of his 1.4 free throw attempts per game, but the efficiency plummeted to 38.5 percent on 1.7 attempts per game on the 15-game G League Ignite Tour. This can be partly attributed to the G League’s one-shot free throw rule, where up until the last two minutes of regulation and overtime, all shooting fouls constitute one free throw worth as many points as the field goal that was attempted. But obviously, he could stand to hit that one free throw more often.
Three-point shooting isn’t a strong-suit for Daniels at this stage either. He finished at 30.1 percent from distance on 3.45 attempts per game last season and 30.2 percent in seven games with the U19 Australian national team in the 2021 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup. Mechanically, his jump shot form looks sound and he’s got a fairly quick release on (albeit quite limited) pull-up attempts. With the touch he’s shown at the rim, becoming a league-average three-point shooter that hovers between 34-36 percent is attainable with lots of reps.
The clip above demonstrates what I’m talking about with his mechanics. I’m no “shot doctor,” but Daniels’ footwork, energy transfer from lower to upper body and wrist motion look all right there. Nineteen-year-old knock-down shooters are a rarity with how difficult it is to maintain consistent mechanics while a player’s physical frame is filling out so rapidly. Even though he missed the shot, the process behind the attempt is perfectly fine, plus it’s important for ball-handlers to be confident enough to punish defenders for going under screens by pulling up from deep.
Daniels almost never pulls up for proper mid-range jumpers, instead opting for leaning floaters and runners and is a low-volume three-point shooter. There’s definitely a mix of low confidence in his spacing ability and the wherewithal not to take shots he’s not comfortable with there and it would open up the court for him to make plays more often if he were able to shoot off the bounce efficiently.
Finishing through contact isn’t even a huge struggle for Daniels right now, but he could stand to add some strength as he progresses through his career. He has a slight tendency to use his length and scoop layups underneath an outstretched arm or try and go over the top, but he does still attack the rim with aggression that implies he at least wants to draw contact — it just doesn’t always work in his favor, which is fair for a teenager playing in the G League. The lack of shooting gravity — defenders go under most of his screens and bigs can play drop coverage against him — is a much larger concern than contact finishing.
While Daniels has plenty of work ahead of him to develop into a high-level NBA player and reach his ceiling, he’s one of the most complete prospects in the draft at this stage and has few holes in his game. A high motor powers his two-way versatility and potential newfound size will afford him upside that smaller ball-handlers simply do not have. Every year, players that are deemed non-shooters pre-draft pop up as shooters in the league; Jaylen Brown and Kawhi Leonard are the most well-known examples, but even cases like Precious Achiuwa’s or Cody Martin’s can be applied for an optimistic look at Daniels’ potential to raise his shooting efficiency.
Some of these prospects, like Daniels, are teenagers; NBA teams are hoping and praying that the development they need is mostly skill-related, as opposed to having to coach bad habits out of them, coax them into being more aggressive, etc. Daniels doesn’t have that issue, and is quite literally a reliable jumper away from being at least an effective long-term NBA starter. That’s a bet teams should be willing to make outside the top seven in this class.
This clip was fun. I just had to throw it in at the end. Does it remind us of a player we might already know?