Frank Vogel and his coaching staff with the Lakers have earned praise for plenty of things they’ve done this year, but one of the biggest feathers in Vogel’s cap specifically has been the way that he’s managed a crowded rotation for a championship contender full of veterans who want to contribute.
Players have talked openly this season about how when they aren’t going to play, Vogel lets them know in advance so that they can get extra conditioning work in. By all accounts, he’s been really up front with guys about roles.
Troy Daniels’ recollection is no different in that sense. He acknowledges that Vogel was straight with him. Still, even now that he’s joined the Nuggets after agreeing with the Lakers that the team should waive him so he can find a playoff team he can get more minutes on, he admitted to Mark Berman of the Roanoke Times that he wanted a more prominent role when he was in Los Angeles:
He appreciated that Vogel would talk to him about his role, and considers Vogel “a hell of a coach.” But he wished he could have played more.
“I could have been used a little bit better and in a little bit different way,” Daniels said. “As a basketball player and as a competitor and as somebody who works their tail off every single day, I feel like I’ve earned the right to say that.
“Obviously, I could have played better in the time that I got.”
Daniels had his moments with the Lakers, but he’s right that overall he probably needed to play better if he was ever going to crack a crowded guard rotation.
The first acquisition of the Lakers’ 2019 free agency period, Daniels was brought to the team as a knock-down floor-spacer to punish teams who paid too much attention to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. As a career 39.6% 3-point shooter, he fit the bill of exactly the type of smaller, spot-up threat that could have success even with limited ball-handling skills due to how much of a playmaking burden James bears for his teams.
Things didn’t really work out that way. Daniels had brief flashes of brilliance, memorably dropping 15 points to help the Lakers win their second game of the season, leading his teammates to say that his threes were “layups” and Vogel to muse that he might have earned a spot in the rotation, but outside of that — and the season-high 17 points he scored in a loss to the Orlando Magic — Daniels never really made a strong argument for more than the spot playing time he was getting.
In 41 appearances for L.A., he shot 35.7% on threes, just around league average. For a guy with limited utility outside of spacing the floor, that was likely a death knell for Daniels’ chances at rotation minutes.
Maybe more minutes would have helped Daniels find more of a rhythm. Maybe, as he points out, he could have been used better. It’s possible that, even with his flaws, he would have had more utility than Rajon Rondo (even if most of the advanced numbers don’t really make that argument).
But while that’s all somewhat interesting to muse about given that we don’t have any actual basketball to watch, it also doesn’t matter too much. Whenever the season resumes, the Lakers will have to figure it out with what they have, and it will be on Daniels to stay ready for the Nuggets and try to make his old team’s decision look like a poor one.