76ers Head Coach Brett Brown Must Start K.J. McDaniels


Coming into this season for the Philadelphia 76ers, most expected that Nerlens Noel would be the running candidate for Rookie of the Year. Only five games in, and Noel has done some nice things, however there’s another rook in Sixers blue and white that has been showing out.

That man is K.J. McDaniels, who gambled on his play by signing a one-year deal with the 76ers that will pay him a little over 500K this season. McDaniels wanted the one-year deal to prove himself and get more guaranteed money next season, instead of being locked into a rookie scale contract for four years. So far, he’s proving it was the right decision.

To start, K.J. McDaniels is finding himself at the top — or near it — of most of the statistical categories for rookies. On the season, the Clemson product is averaging 9.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. He’s shooting 51.4 percent from the floor and 54 percent from three, both of these percentages rank second amongst qualified rookies. These numbers are only five games in, and while his shooting from three will decrease, hopefully the rest of the number can stay as high as they are.

Even advanced statistics have been kind to McDaniels. Per Basketball Reference, McDaniels is leading all qualifited rookies in PER (player efficiency rating) at 14.4. The 6’6″ swingman is above rookies like Shabazz Napier, Doug McDermott and Elfrid Payton in this category.

The NBA average PER is 15 and McDaniels is the closest to that number. Even though his team is without a win, McDaniels is still finding a way to positively impact the game.

Looking at McDaniels’ game logs from this season, he’s been consistent for the most part — besides the first game against Indiana. Last night he received 29 minutes, the highest of the season, after coming off another high in 27 minutes against Houston. The high flying guard responded with scoring 10+ points in each game, while shooting over 50 percent from the field and deep. McDaniels has also recorded a block in every game besides the Milwaukee contest. He’s averaging 1.6 bpg, second amongst rookies behind Nerlens Noel (1.8).

It’s clear that McDaniels is a stud in the making and has the potential to be something special. There’s one question left to answer: Why isn’t Brett Brown starting K.J. McDaniels? With Michael Carter-Williams being out due to injury, there is room in the lineup for McDaniels’ name. He could slide next to Wroten at the two guard, or replace Luc Mbah a Moute at small forward. It’s a travesty that Chris Johnson (112) has played more minutes than McDaniels (110) at this point. This is the Chris Johnson who is averaging 4.8 points per game, shooting 27 percent from the floor and 20 percent from deep. He has since been taken out of the starting lineup, but McDaniels wasn’t inserted. Brett Brown decided to put Hollis Thompson in at two guard instead.

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Hollis Thompson is a nice player and has a decent stroke, so my concern isn’t really with Thompson playing the two, even though he’s had a rough start. If Brett Brown wants to roll with Holliswood at the two, then fine. But, get Luc Mbah a Moute off the floor. Mbah a Moute is averaing 7.3 points per game, but has poor shooting percentages (39 percent from floor, 18 percent from three) and doesn’t provide the defensive that McDaniels does. Must I bring up the fact again that McDaniels has two games with three blocks and is averaging 1.6 blocks per game?

It’s time Brett, it’s time to experiment and give McDaniels the shine he deserves. Playing someone with potential Rookie of the Year implications 22 minutes per game will not do, play the kid.