Dyson Daniels already impressing Pelicans’ coaching staff

Published: Jul. 4, 2022 at 8:56 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 4, 2022 at 9:36 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The times have changed for the Pelicans.

After a successful late run into the playoffs last season, the franchise has gone from an afterthought to a highly sought destination. So much so, that it’s been rumored that Kevin Durant, arguably one of the greatest scorers of all time, is interested in being traded to the Big Easy to play for a leader like Coach Willie Green.

What’s something that could be a major factor in not landing Durant on the Pelicans? Well, the answer may surprise you.

It’s hard to imagine a world where the Pelicans feel they are too good to add a superstar, but it is certain that if they are indeed a player in the Durant sweepstakes, they have difficult decisions to make all around.

It has to be considered that this may be the deepest NBA team ever set to take the court for New Orleans, and the latest example of that may lie in their draft.

FILE - Team Barry's Dyson Daniels, of the G League Ignite, plays against Team Payton during a...
FILE - Team Barry's Dyson Daniels, of the G League Ignite, plays against Team Payton during a semifinal of the NBA basketball Rising Stars event, Feb. 18, 2022, in Cleveland. Daniels is among a growing number of players who are bypassing college basketball to pursue alternate routes toward their goal of playing in the NBA. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)(Ron Schwane | AP)

Taken in the most recent draft at No. 8 overall by New Orleans, Australian product Dyson Daniels is already impressing the Pelicans’ coaching staff.

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“We’re playing him in scrimmages and we’re putting him in multiple spots,” said Pelicans lead assistant coach Jarron Collins, who will coach in Summer League. “Obviously, he can be a primary ball-handler, he can literally play 1-4 and defend every single position.”

Standing 6′8 with a 6′11 wingspan, Daniels has physical tools to be inserted in various scenarios on the floor in various roles.

“Frankly, his versatility will allow us to be creative with our lineups,” Collins said. “And his availability to us putting him in different spots.”

While it’s been assessed that the Pelicans could improve in outside shooting, one can argue that giving Trey Murphy III and pairing Zion with shooters that will have more open looks already solves that problem. Rather, the Pelicans seem to be doubling down on defense.

In Pelicans teams of old, there’s often been a trend of second units giving up big leads built by the starting five. One of the most glaring weaknesses that did show up in that department had been their bench units failing to cover the perimeter. By running with a 1-3 lineup of Daniels, Jose Alvarado, and Murphy there’s a commitment there to lockup opposing backcourts.

Daniels is impactful and gets deflections utilizing his length and active hands. Pairing him with Alvarado may just prove that the best offense can come in fast breaks going the other way sparked by a defensive rebound, steal, or blocked shot.

Playing in the G-League last season, Daniels isn’t a high-volume scorer, averaging just under 12 ppg, but offensively as a point guard, Daniels displays excellent court vision and an ability to dish the ball. This could really come in handy with cutters Jaxson Hayes and Larry Nance Jr. running in the frontcourt of the second unit. He also sets his own pace as a ball-handler and shows a willingness to be a finisher in the lane.

Daniels is not a player that looks to shoot from deep. He only averaged around three attempts beyond the arc per game last season and was only 30 percent on catch-and-shoots. However, this could likely improve under shooting coach Fred Vinson.

At 19 years old, there’s no reason to believe that Daniels won’t continue to improve his offensive game, similar to last year’s rookie sensation Herb Jones. It may take a while at first, but Daniels could be a major player in the rotation down the line.

All the depth in the world may not be enough to negate the opportunity for one of the league’s biggest talents if the opportunity is there. However, if the Pelicans end up not trading for Kevin Durant, their situation appears to indicate that they will be just fine.

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