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76ers Rookie K.J. McDaniels is Defending His Name


Ask K.J. McDaniels what he was brought to Philadelphia to do and his likely answer is “play defense.” Well, McDaniels has brought all of that and more to the 76ers this season. Still winless, but McDaniels has found a way to stick out from the abysmal record. Maybe it’s the high-flying dunks and blocks, but besides the highlight plays, McDaniels has been sound on all fronts.

Everyone has been quick to discuss McDaniels’ blocks, which have been impressive. The Clemson guard is averaging 1.7 blocks per game and has three games where he has blocked 3+ shots. However, his overall defense has been more impressive.

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According to NBA.com, McDaniels is holding opponents he’s guarding to shooting 38.7 percentage from the field, well below the league average. The players McDaniels has guarded normally shoot 43.8 percent from the floor. His net defended field goal percentage is -5.1 percent (the more negative a number, the better it is).

This chart from 82games.com shows how McDaniels is doing on defense broken down by position. McDaniels has seen the brute of his minutes (44 percent) at shooting guard. He’s holding players to a 15.5 PER, which is around the league average. That’s not bad for a rookie who has drawn match ups against James Harden and Dwyane Wade.

He’s as versatile as they come on the defensive end. The high-flying guard can guard almost every position on the floor from point guard to power forward. He might remind 76ers fans of Andre Iguodala early on in his career with Philadelphia, which is a nice distinction to see seven games in.

His overall defense has been impressive, but let’s not act like the blocks haven’t been turning heads. His highest block total came in the 76ers last game against the Toronto Raptors. The game was a blowout in every definition of the word, but McDaniels recorded four blocks on the night. Most impressive about the blocks was how they are all in different occurrences. One block came on a drive by DeMar DeRozan, another on a weak side rotation by McDaniels on Greivis Vasquez, the next block was on a fast break attempt by Greivis Vasquez and the last block was on a Lou Williams three-pointer. It may be nothing, but it’s interesting to see that McDaniels is blocking shots in a variety of ways. The man is to be feared on the defensive side of the ball.

The 6’6″ guard is in 14th place with Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith in blocks per game, both averaging 1.7. McDaniels is also tied for 12th place in total blocks at 12 blocks, tied with six other players.

All of this and I haven’t even typed the words that this man was a SECOND-ROUND PICK. McDaniels is the definition of a steal and Philadelphia fans are praying that the 76ers match whatever offers come his way this offseason, even just seven short games into the season.

Defence was the calling card of K.J. McDaniels coming into the 2014 NBA Draft and nothing has changed seven games into his NBA career. Sure, it’s a small sample, but his pedigree shouts that this will remain a trend. For right now, he’s K.J. McDaniels, but he could be Rookie of the Year by the end of the season.

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