Player: Troy Daniels
Position: Shooting guard
Acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent
Contract situation: Signed a two-year, $1.7 million deal this offseason
Fun fact: Is the Atlantic 10 record holder for 3-pointers in a game, with 11
Troy Daniels didn't just emerge in the Houston Rockets' playoff series last year, he exploded.
Daniels had played in just five games for the Rockets during the regular season, scoring just 42 total points in his NBA career, but the Rockets included him on their playoff roster. They knew something the rest of the league didn't: he was deadeye shooter with absolutely no conscience.
Despite playing in 75 minutes, he shot 48 percent from 3-point range. Playing for the Rio Grande Vipers, he averaged 21.5 points a game on 40.1 percent from deep, playing as part of the Rockets' funky 3-point bombing experiment down there.
Not only was he accurate, he hit shots in unprecedented volume. According to Ridiculous Upside, Daniels broke the D-League record for three-pointers made in just 27 games. Last season, he sank a mindblowing 240 three-pointers, a new record by more than 100. More from Scott Rafferty:
By the season's end, Daniels knocked down a total of 240 threes with the Vipers and connected on 40.1 percent of his overall attempts, which, considering the volume of shots he took (12.5 three-point attempts per game), is incredible. He averaged 5.0 made threes per game, a pace that, over the course of an 82 game season, would equate to 138 more threes than Stephen Curry's record breaking total in 2012-2013. Daniels connected on eight or more threes on seven separate occasions and tied the D-League record with 10 threes against the Idaho Stampede.
The Rockets' playoffs ended in misery, but Daniels was a bright spot. He shot 53.3 percent from deep in four games, hitting shots in huge moments with no hesitation. The dirty little secret about the Rockets last year -- that they were a ruthless "no midrange jumpers" team without great 3-point shooters outside of James Harden -- would have been exposed without Daniels.
Daniels has picked up where he left off in the preseason, shooting 52.9 percent and showing the ability to rise up quickly, in transition and off the catch. He's been so hot since he started getting paid for this, it's a surprise when it doesn't go in.
The one thing we haven't seen Daniels do is hit shots, night after night, over a lengthy regular season against top level competition. His stroke will translate, as will his confidence, but we don't know what happens when hits a funk; he hasn't since he left VCU.
The lingering questions come in all of the other facets of the game. Can Daniels defend? He was part of VCU's ridiculous "Havoc" defense in college, so he at least has a firm grasp of sound defensive principles. Whether he has an ability to guard opposing shooting guards one-on-one is an unanswered question. Conventional wisdom would say he's a bad defender until proven otherwise.
Daniels doesn't bring anything to an offense off the dribble, doesn't have remarkable athleticism, and hasn't shown an extraordinary ability to pass. He's a completely one-dimensional player right now. But, like Pat Beverley for his defense, Daniels' dominance in that one facet of the game makes him valuable despite his deficiencies.
Daniels is still not completely assured regular minutes, although if Kevin McHale was our comment section during game threads he would be. It's unclear what, if anything, Jason Terry is going to be able to give the Rockets off the bench. Beyond Terry, Francisco Garcia and Ish Smith, there is almost no NBA experience of note among the bench players.
If Daniels is given an opportunity to play regularly -- and there's really no reason to think he won't be -- I'd like to see him on the floor with any two of James Harden, Dwight Howard, Ish Smith, Terrence Jones and Kostas Papanikolaou. As I see it, those are the only five guys on the roster who can take the ball and create something. A player with the ability to do that creates ball-watching from opponents, which gives Daniels and his lightning-quick release all the time he needs to rise and fire.
If Daniels is in with a unit like Isaiah Canaan, Trevor Ariza, Motiejunas and Jeff Adrien/Tarik/Black/Joey Dorsey, that would be a disaster. The offense would have no creators, no ball movement, and it would just be, in its ideal state, Canaan driving aimlessly to the basket for a kick-out, and then swinging the ball around the perimeter until any of Daniels, D-Mo and Ariza had an open looks, with the 5 looking for an offensive rebound.
The fact is, Daniels is not the Rockets' best option at sixth man. He's not a Jamal Crawford-level ballhandler, we don't know how well he plays team defense and we don't know too much about his game. Daniels is, however, the Rockets' most potent offensive weapon off the bench, and an added dimension they simply didn't have last year.