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2022 NBA Draft Analysis: Dyson Daniels

Pacers podcast and more

Mexico City Capitanes v G League Ignite Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

With draft season officially in full swing, Mark and Caitlin are back with a fresh episode of “Stock up, Stock down.” Breaking down a different prospect each week, the idea is for the hosts to watch a player, identifying reasons to be both bearish and bullish, with frame of reference from a few specific games as well as for the Pacers. Then, in zooming out with a broader focus, an invited draft expert reacts to the findings.

This week, Dakota Schmidt joins to talk Dyson Daniels, who is reportedly scheduled to workout for the Pacers in the coming days, through the lens of the G League Ignite’s games against Stockton, Santa Cruz, and Long Island.

Stock up

Caitlin’s pick — Quick math

With active hands, cat-like reflexes, and the length to meet opponents at the rim, Dyson Daniels thrives on split-second decisions — a skill which is magnified in transition, where defenders are often forced to choose between the lesser of two evils in the blink of an eye.

As the first defender back, watch as he resists the urge to come up away from the basket to meet the ball and instead stays back, allowing for the possibility of a lower-percentage shot while preventing any passing lanes, avoiding the foul, and collecting the rebound.

Now, take a look at this 2-on-1 situation, as he assesses the danger of the ball and retreats to snuff out the lob, single-handedly taking away both options.

Or, how about the way he plays the angles when he has a running mate, disrupting the ball-handler’s rhythm and intent to draw contact by jumping backward and sideways.

On the whole, there’s no publicly available way to track exactly how effective players are at preventing easy baskets in transition when outnumbered, but considering that Dyson’s versatility also shows up in these situations, whether shutting off driving lanes and forcing pull-ups against guards or staying vertical inside on cross-matches, there’s ample reason to think he was among the best in the G League. None of which is to mention that, the actual act of manufacturing stops as the last-line of defense is only half the battle.

What happens at the other end of the floor matters, too. For example, consider this possession against the Long Island Nets. Once again, Daniels gets a piece of the ball at the rim in what should be dire straits.

But, consider what allowed him to be in position to turn over his shoulder in the first place.

While not necessarily a knockdown shooter (he’s impressed in workouts — allegedly!), Daniels is a willing off-ball mover. The benefits of that extend beyond drawing longer and (sometimes) harder closeouts. Track his movement, here, as MarJon Beauchamp backs his way to the cup from the wing. Rather than planting himself in the deep corner, Daniels rotates up toward the top of the arc, subtlety creating the floor balance that allows him to prevent his team from paying a fast price on defense.

While simple, nothing about that is guaranteed. Just ask the Pacers, particularly on this possession against Boston. When Tyrese Haliburton drives baseline, look at how Buddy Hield wanders back into the frame, presumably hunting a rebound in no man’s land on a shot from the corner that tends to exhibit a weak-side bias on ricochets, when he should’ve been staying high to protect against a quick outlet.

As a result, all five Pacers are flattened out, starting behind the hypothetical starting line.

In the end, Terry Taylor (as the shooter!) ends up being the first player back, where he basically just backs out of the way.

Granted, transition defense isn’t everything and Daniels isn’t without his faults in other areas, as he lacks in wiggle while maneuvering around screens and can be so intent on processing his next rotation that he loses track of what’s happening behind him. Still, from his hand-eye coordination and recovery skills to his knack for playing the numbers and stunting between options, the pressure of the open floor in many ways amalgamates his strongest traits in the half-court, while also potentially providing an upgrade for a Pacers team that ranked dead-last in points allowed per 100 transition plays (144.4) following the trade deadline, according to Cleaning the Glass. At the very least, that’s something.

Mark’s pick — Defensive Plasticity

Stock down

Caitlin’s pick — Contact

Dyson Daniels is a smooth, patient athlete who routinely finds nylon spinning back to his floater and improved to 41 percent from three over the final 10 games of the season compared to 30 percent for the year, but he can struggle to handle in tight spaces and against pressure. That’s less of a concern with Tyrese Haliburton, as the Aussie would be able to slot in more naturally as a connective wing, slashing downhill and manipulating wider gaps with his hang dribble and ability to make passes on the move; however, to be a floater-heavy scorer dependent on blowing by defenders who isn’t yet a reliable pull-up three threat nor plays into contact is still a tough combination, unless something gives.

Here, for example, Haliburton occupies Jaren Jackson Jr.’s rim protection on the perimeter, which allows Hield to activate his secondary skills, collapsing the defense and kicking the ball out to a shooter, without the directly adjacent defender cheating into his driving space.

That’s the ideal for Daniels, but it also was made possible by being run off the line on the catch. If that’s assumed (which seems a little presumptuous considering that some opponents continued to be unconcerned with ducking under against him, even on second-side pick-and-rolls), there’s also the matter of what happens when he puts his head down.

For starters, try to look away from this defender’s incredibly undisciplined closeout and instead focus on the lack of elevation Daniels gets when launching off one foot.

That also shows up in shoulder and hip wars, when defenders are attempting to bump him off his finishing angle and he goes wide, rather than veering back into their chest, cutting them off and getting back to the front of the basket.

For the season, Daniels posted a lower free throw rate (14.8%) than Haliburton has for his career (16.1%) on roughly the same usage (hovering around 18%). Meanwhile, when Daniels did get to the line, he only converted 60 percent of his attempts — a number which dipped further still over the last 10 games (50%), even as his 3-point percentage spiked (41%). As a team, the Pacers ranked 24th in free throw rate (24.3%) following the trade deadline.

All of which is to say that, although Daniels and Haliburton aren’t necessarily similar in their overall skillsets, as the latter is by far the purer shooter and playmaker out of the pick-and-roll with the former boasting more range defensively, they do share a few of the same weaknesses (i.e. handling and drawing contact, accessing the rim, screen navigation, etc.) as well as strengths (feel, floater-touch, nail defense, low-usage scoring, turning stops into full-court outlet passes, etc.), bringing to question whether what might be complementary and alleviating for Daniels, allowing him to play as connective tissue, could be somewhat replicative, if not cramped, for Haliburton, especially pending floor spacing.

Mark’s pick — Handle and inability to navigate tight space

Other topics:

  • G League Ignite play context
  • pros and cons of ceding ground on defense
  • overall defensive versatility and ideal scheme
  • role projection
  • more

Enjoy the pod and continue looking forward to more of these episodes as the draft approaches. Also, if you haven’t already, please be sure to Rate and Review the Indy Cornrows Podcast on Apple Podcasts and subscribe anywhere else you can listen.