It is time for an in-depth look at Houston rookie shooting guard Troy Daniels. First off, if you haven’t been scrutinizing the 2014 NBA Playoffs, you may have missed him. He snatched victory from the claws of defeat for the Rockets in game 3 with the Portland Trail Blazers, and nearly did it again last night in game 4. The kid is a major threat and you’re about to find out why.
Daniels, 22, is a 3-point specialist. The 6’4” shooting guard out of Virginia Commonwealth scores almost exclusively from deep. Through four years of college, he made the 2nd-most 3-pointers in VCU history (251). Know why? Because when he became a starter his junior year, he attempted 52 standard field goals compared to 247 3-point field goals, on which he shot 38.1 percent. His senior year? He took 49 to 308 – 40.3 percent from deep.
Like Portland’s own Wesley Matthews, Daniels went undrafted out of college. He briefly signed with the Bobcats, who waived him, then with the Rockets, who waived him, then with the Rockets again in February. In between, he spent time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers where he set the NBA D-League single-season 3-point record (153) and tied the NBA D-League single game 3-point record (10). Fun fact: that latter record was set against the Idaho Stampede during C.J. McCollum’s D-League stint before returning from injury.
The Rockets called Daniels up in March, but played him roughly never. The only reason he accrued his meager 75 minutes of regular season play is because head coach Kevin McHale let him play 44 minutes in the season finale when it couldn’t affect their postseason standings. In those 44 minutes, Daniels went 6-11 from deep and finished with 22 points, paving the way to his increasingly important role in the NBA Playoffs.
Daniels has always thrived in a 3-point shooting system – what better team for him than the Houston Rockets who attempted more threes than any other team this season? Sample size acknowledged, Daniels has drained 7-11 threes in the playoffs so far (64 percent), and made 12-25 in limited action during the regular season (48 percent). He’s like a young, relevant Steve Novak.
More than anything, though, this underdog shooting exhibition reminds me of the San Antonio Spurs’ Danny Green in last year’s NBA Finals. Unfortunately for Daniels, I don’t think the Rockets will make it that far since they are down 1-3 in the first round. Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, Daniels has emerged as a potential x-factor to improve Houston’s odds of a comeback. Watch him closely as the series continues.
If Daniels continues to produce and is able to cement himself as a regular in Houston’s lineup, their 3-point barrage will be that much more threatening in future seasons. The Rockets were desperate enough to waive 7-year veteran Ronnie Brewer in order to sign him and, if things work out, they may finally have a reliable backup to come off the bench behind James Harden.