K.J. McDaniels had a little longer wait in Brooklyn than most any projections had him pegged in Thursday night’s NBA draft.
But given his history of proving doubters wrong, there’s probably no other way for the former three-star prospect to enter his pro career – slipping out of the first round and to Philadelphia 76ers with the second pick of the second round.
On the line for second round picks? Earning their contracts, as NBA teams are not required to have any guaranteed money in their deals. First round picks are guaranteed the first two years of their contract.
Philadelphia picked 7-foot Kansas center Joel Embiid with the third pick in the first round, who could miss all next season rehabbing a stress fracture in his right foot. The Sixers went 19-63 last year and haven't had a winning record in a full season since 2004-05 (went 35-31 in a lockout shortened 2011-12).
McDaniels was the first Tiger since Trevor Booker to make first-team All-ACC this past season, averaging 17.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game – and Thursday night, the Alabama native became Clemson’s first NBA draftee since Booker landed with the Washington Wizards in 2010.
McDaniels’ athleticism, especially on the defensive end, was his calling card to an early try at a pro career.
The Birmingham product was named ACC defensive player of the year by both the media and the coaches in 2014, leading the conference in blocks for a second-straight year (2.8).
His versatility, however, shows the potential to be more than just a stopper at the next level.
He joined former Wake Forest forward Josh Howard last season as one of two players in ACC history to lead their team in points, rebounds, blocks, steals and three-pointers. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas made the comparison between the two leading up to the draft.
“He makes open shots,” Bilas said, “and he’s really good in transition, really good finisher. I like him a lot..I think he’ll play in the NBA and have a good career because he can do some things that not a lot of guys can do. He can guard multiple spots.
“And if his offense comes around, he can really be a valuable piece.”
Following in the footsteps of Clemson’s football staff back in May with Sammy Watkins, Brad Brownell and two assistants joined the McDaniels’ family in Brooklyn.
“Very happy for @KJMcDaniels and family,” Brownell said via Twitter before the day’s festivities. “Great player, super teammate and humble young man.”