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K.J McDaniels is out to prove he deserves minutes on the Rockets

K.J McDaniels bet on himself and it paid off, now he's trying to prove he deserves minutes.

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When K.J McDaniels was drafted by the 76ers last year, he bet on himself taking a one-year deal because he knew he was worth more than what a second round pick makes.

The Rockets also believed he was worth it, trading for McDaniels before the trade deadline. He did not play much for the Rockets. Even still, they believed so much in his potential in the offseason he was signed to a three-year, $10 million deal.

Not to bad for a guy that played a total of 33 minutes for the Rockets, but McDaniels proved with his elite athleticism that he's worth the contract.

Last season before getting traded to the Rockets, McDaniels showed above-average shot blocking skills (not bad for a shooting guard) and he had an uncanny ability to cut to the basket and get to the rim. While with the 76ers he was among some of the league leaders in blocked shots and dunks.

But when he came to the Rockets he sat on the bench, and never whined about playing time or complained he was being overlooked. Instead, McDaniels did the difficult thing that not all players do, he sat back and tried to grow as a player.

"Just watching, seeing how the intensity picks up throughout the regular season to the playoffs," McDaniels said during practice on Friday when asked what he learned last season while on the bench "I have to be ready to come out with that same intensity."

This season he enters with a little better footing, there are some back up wing minutes to be had.

"It's just learning how to play off the vets," McDaniels said when asked what lesson he is learning this season "trying not to do too much as a young guy because I know I can score, it's just finding a way to do other things, (like) playing defense, rebounding, blocking shots."

For McDaniels it's all about showing Kevin McHale that he can play, but coach has to have trust in him. Rockets fans are all too familiar with McHale and his reluctance to play younger guys; if the Rockets were not so injury-depleted last year, we likely would not have even seen Clint Capela.

McDaniels is behind a pretty durable stable of wing players so he has to go out and really prove he deserves minutes on the floor.

Last season, you could see McDaniels quietly working trying to improve, many times during shootaround on game days you would often see McDaniels launching threes just trying to get better.

I think if you asked McDaniels he would probably tell you his three-point game was not on the same level of the wings ahead of him. After all, he shot under 29 percent for the season.

While he has spent a lot of time working on his three-point shot, it's still not at the level he would like it.

"I still feel like it needs work, I feel like I’m just going to keep getting my reps up and keep getting my rhythm back," McDaniels said.

In the Rockets offense, there are plenty of guys who can slash and score (including McDaniels), but the catch and shoot and shooting with more confidence is what McDaniels sees as his opening for PT. One of the things in McDaniels favor this season is in practice, and oftentimes after practice, he is going against James Harden.

What's the old adage, steel sharpens steel? I'm pretty sure that's it... And nothing says "I want to be a better player" like going after Harden.

"There's a lot I can learn from him," McDaniels said of his takeaways guarding Harden "learning how to defend an elite offensive player is hard."

If McDaniels can knock down threes in rhythm and play solid defense against one of the best players in the NBA, it will go a long way toward showing McHale he's ready to contribute on this team.