Editor’s Note: For the second year in a row, the Silver Screen and Roll staff is counting down the most interesting Lakers heading into next season. We will be going through all 20 training camp spots before the season begins, and today we continue with No. 15, Troy Daniels.
When the Lakers signed Troy Daniels this offseason, it seemed like a bit of an overcorrection. The roster was so heavy on playmaking last season, and so devoid of shooting, that it was a breath of fresh air when the front office targeted a player like Daniels with their first official signing in July.
Daniels is the definition of a pure shooter, to the point that it is sometimes hard to identify other NBA-worthy skills in his repertoire. But even a player as one-dimensional as Daniels was lauded precisely because he possesses the one characteristic the 2018-19 Lakers were desperately lacking: Shooting.
Daniels has been in the league for six years, sticking mostly at the pro level after a rookie year spent primarily in the G League. It’s an impressive career path for a player who was undrafted and who will already be playing for his sixth NBA team when the season starts in Los Angeles this year.
But after six years, Daniels hasn’t left much of an impression beyond being a 40 percent career 3-point shooter. Most casual NBA fans would be hard-pressed to identify the 28-year-old, and even though he can absolutely shoot the ball, it remains to be seen if there is enough else in his game to warrant minutes on a team that hopes to compete for a championship.
Over the past five seasons, as the former VCU product has traveled from Minnesota to Charlotte to Memphis and Phoenix, Daniels has essentially been the same player: a high-volume 3-point shooter who almost steadfastly refuses to fill any other part of the box score.
He has a low-usage rate and his assist percentage is comically low for a guard, though he at least complements that with a low turnover rate. The lack of ball-handling and creative ability is probably why Daniels is considered more of a wing than a two-guard, even though he stands at 6’4”.
Defensively, Daniels doesn’t bring much to the table. Per Cleaning the Glass, his steal and block percentages have all been well below average, and his teams foul more frequently when he’s on the floor. Setting aside his one season as a member of the Grit and Grind Grizzlies, Daniels has never had a positive defensive impact.
What Daniels does is shoot. And he does it well.
Daniels took 69 percent of his shots from 3-point range last year, making 38 percent of those looks. The previous season, 79 percent of his shot attempts were threes, and he converted 41 percent of them. He played both of the last two seasons in Phoenix, which finished 30th and 28th in offensive efficiency in 2018 and 2019, respectively, so this wasn’t a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ situation. Even within a terrible offensive system, Daniels found ways to generate good shots and connect at a high percentage.
He is effective shooting off of the pass and also on pull-ups. For his career, he has shot 40.4 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers and 41.2 percent on pull-up threes. When Daniels is on the court, he finds a way to knock down shots.
The Lakers identified Daniels very early in free agency, when the team was still looking for players to fit alongside not only LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but also Kawhi Leonard. In an alternate timeline where the Lakers had signed Leonard, there would be value in having Daniels, a limited but efficient offensive player who doesn’t need the ball in his hands.
But in a two-star set-up, the L.A. perimeter players will be tasked with more responsibilities, particular on the defensive end, and that isn’t where Daniels excels. At this point, he projects to be the sixth or seventh-best guard in the Lakers’ perimeter rotation, and that’s before accounting for rookie Talen Horton-Tucker. Maybe the Lakers didn’t envision a logjam at guard when they signed Daniels, but they have one now. There’s also a good chance that the team isn’t satisfied with its current roster and will make some improvements as the season goes along — as the only perimeter player on a one-year deal, Daniels would seem to be the first to go if that time comes.
The first breakout moment of Daniels’ NBA career came early on. As a rookie, he played 20 minutes in a must-win playoff game for the Houston Rockets, who were down 2-0 in the first round to Portland. Daniels hadn’t played in either of the first two contests, but scored nine points in Game 3, including the game-winning 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to give the Rockets life in the series.
(In case you were wondering, yes, that is Lakers legend and 2-time NBA champion Josh Powell celebrating with Daniels at the end of this clip.)
On one hand, this is exactly the kind of break-glass-in-case-of-emergency opportunity that Daniels should be prepared for with the Lakers. He needs to be a shooting threat in clutch situations with full confidence to take the big shot even if he hasn’t played much prior, and he has proven to be capable doing that. On the other hand, this game happened five years ago, which is an eternity in NBA years. It was two Damian Lillard series-winners ago. Look at the players on the floor for both teams — only Lillard, CJ McCollum, and James Harden remain.
Daniels is the player who set an Atlantic 10 record by making 11 threes in a single college game, but that happened in 2013. He’s the player who made a game-winning 3-pointer in an NBA playoff game, but that was in 2014.
Now it’s 2019, and it’s time for Daniels to add a new highlight to his resume. The question is if he will be around long enough in Los Angeles and on the court to have that opportunity. And that’s where the intrigue will come with his season.
The countdown so far...
15. Troy Daniels