Sixers fans still bicker back and forth when it comes to deciding if KJ McDaniels was a “bust” or not. Drafted with the 32nd overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, it really is truly hard to determine what McDaniels’ value was when it came to the Philadelphia 76ers. Traded after just over 50 games with the team, McDaniels simply became another victim of Sam Hinkie’s aggression in the trade market.
Like previously mentioned, the Sixers used their first of five second-round picks on McDaniels during the 2014 draft (the same draft that netted the team Joel Embiid). McDaniels was coming off an extremely impressive Junior year at Clemson where he led the ACC in blocks and won conference defensive player of the year.
Drafted for his athleticism and elite defensive abilities, it appeared as if the Sixers had themselves a legit young trio between Embiid, Michael Carter-Williams, and McDaniels.
McDaniels played in 52 games for the Sixers, starting in 15. He averaged just over 20 minutes per game while posting a statline of 7.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game. McDaniels by no means was a very productive player on the offensive side of things, seeing as his FG% sat below 40% and his 3P% was in the 20’s. However, his defense lived up to the hype, as he established himself as a legit on-ball defender for Philly.
Despite McDaniels’ solid start to his NBA career, Hinkie and the Sixers were in full on tank mode. Seeing as they had a bit of value in McDaniels, the team quickly flipped him at the trade deadline for Isaiah Canaan and a future second-round pick. The Sixers later used that pick to draft Jean-Pierre Tokoto II, who never logged an NBA minute with the team.
McDaniels played in just ten games for Houston following the trade, as he suffered a fracture in his right elbow. Despite the injury to close out the 2014 season, Houston felt they had a hidden gem in the young forward. During the summer leading up to the 2015 season, the Rockets and McDaniels agreed on a 3-year/$10 million extension.
While the checkbook may have reflected that McDaniels was going to be a key player coming off the bench for Houston, his in-game production told a different story. During the 2015-16 NBA season, McDaniels’ numbers took a serious hit and he even received a few assignments to the D-League. McDaniels did however appear in four playoff games for the Rockets at the end of the 2016 season.
The following season McDaniels was traded yet again, this time to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for cash considerations. McDaniels averaged 6.3 points per game across 20 games for the Nets before seeing the team let him hit free agency the following summer.
McDaniels initially signed with the Raptors, but was cut prior to the season starting. He bounced around a few different G-League teams before ultimately taking his talents overseas. In 2019 he played for “TNT KaTropa,” a Philippines-based basketball team. McDaniels did pretty darn well for himself in this league, even scoring 41 points on one occasion.
Currently, KJ McDaniels is on the roster of the Greensboro Swarm (Charlotte Hornets G-League affiliate). McDaniels’ rights were acquired via a trade with the Oklahoma City Blue. Technically speaking, McDaniels doesn’t have to actually play for the Swarm whenever the G-League does return. However, if he does decide to return to the NBA’s developmental league, he’ll first have to head to the Swarm.
McDaniels is still just 27 years old, and he could take one final stab at NBA success by jumping back into the G-League. Regardless of what happens with his basketball future, this is probably a draft pick Hinkie and the Sixers wish they had back.
Mandatory Credit – © Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
David is a 20 year old college student at the University of Maryland. A lifelong Philadelphia sports fan who started covering the teams back in late May of 2019. After just a few months of writing for fun on a personal blog, he now reports on the 76ers for PhillySportsNetwork.com and the Phillies for Fansided.com.