Three years ago, K.J. McDaniels was dazzling the NBA with his leaping ability on a go-nowhere team in Philadelphia.
In 2017, instead of a go-nowhere team, he's on a very good team, but he's stuck at the bottom of the bench, only able to make into games when the lead by either team is between 20-30 points in the final moments of the fourth quarter.
Saturday night, the Houston Rockets were destroying the Phoenix Suns.
To start the fourth quarter, the Rockets were up by 34 points, you could not craft a more perfect moment for McDaniels to stretch his legs and play the entire quarter, but nay... The deep bench didn't make it into the game until about four minutes were left.
At that very moment, I came to the realization that McDaniels will never make a difference in Houston, barring a few injuries in front of him.
Just three years earlier, the Rockets plucked him from obscurity and added him to a playoff team, and while he/we/management all knew he was a little far away from contributing to the team, after what he did on the 76ers, you could see some promise.
He had a few moments last season when the Rockets went to him, but for whatever reason, he kept going back to the bench. Even this year, McDaniels got a little bit of run, but since Patrick Beverley has gotten back healthy, he's back to the deep bench.
McDaniels has shown plenty of glimpses throughout his Rockets career, and maybe that is what they have been aiming for all along.
Keeping McDaniels from playing a bigger role does two things.
- It keeps the Rockets from exposing him if he really isn't ready.
- It makes other general managers think, hey this guy is just buried behind good depth. We can add him to our team and he'll be a contributor.
McDaniels has a very team friendly contract, he makes $3 million-ish this season and next year (club option). While fans want McDaniels to take Corey Brewer's role on the team, I think the Rockets have proved that will never happen.
With McDaniels again stuck, it seems like his biggest value to the Rockets will be as a trade chip for Daryl Morey.
McDaniels is a uber alethic combo guard/forward, who can also work well as a small ball four, he's developing his three-point shot and no doubt he's hungry to play.
No team is trading for Brewer like many are hoping, but by not playing McDaniels very much at all, there is a little bit of mystery around him. Could he be ready for a breakout or is there a reason he remains on the bench?
While McDaniels has never contributed very much for the Rockets at all during his tenure, it feels like his biggest contribution to the team will be helping them bring in another part to help them beat the Golden State Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs.