The Toronto Raptors have agreed to terms on a contract with K.J. McDaniels, ASM Sports announced Thursday. Adrian Wojnarowski further provides the detail that it is a one-year deal with a partial guarantee.
That means McDaniels will likely be coming to training camp to compete with a handful of other players for the Raptors’ 14th and perhaps 15th roster spots. As currently constructed, the Raptors have 13 guaranteed contracts and are a shade below the luxury tax line. They have enough wiggle room to keep a 14th and stay beneath that line (depending on what assumptions you make about unlikely bonuses), but a 15th player would push them over it. However, because deals for McDaniels, Alfonzo McKinnie, Kennedy Meeks, and Kyle Wiltjer don’t fully guarantee until Jan. 10, the Raptors have the option to carry 15 for a chunk of the season and make a determination on their willingness to land in the tax down the line.
This should make for quite a camp competition, too, because McDaneils is an intriguing piece. A second-round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers out of Clemson in 2014, McDaniels bet on himself and sort of flipped off the 76ers model for second-rounders, declining a team-friendly four-year deal in order to sign his required tender and become a free agent after just one season. When McDaniels thrived as a rookie, the Sixers moved swiftly to flip him to the Houston Rockets for Isaiah Canaan and a second-round pick that they could conceivably have control of for longer (they ultimately chose Richaun Holmes with that pick, a nice find).
McDaniels impressed enough in 62 games across the two teams a rookie to earn a three-year, $10-million deal from the Rockets in restricted free agency the following summer. His development really seemed to stall from there, though, with a tiny role on a competitive team, and McDaniels rode the shuttle between Houston and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers often. Last year, the Rockets pulled the plug on McDaniels at the trade deadline, flipping him to the Brooklyn Nets for cash. He was a little better there in 20 games but never gained full traction, and the Nets let him become a free agent rather than pick up the 2017-18 option on his deal.
All told, McDaniels remains a bit of a question mark, his track record a mixed bag. In 148 career games, he’s averaged 5.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.6 blocks, solid across-the-board production in 14.1 minutes that speaks to his well-rounded game and ability to create value through his athleticism and motor. Over the last three years, only nine players have played at least 2,000 minutes and recorded an assist rate of 7.7 percent, a steal rate of 1.7 percent, and a block rate of 3.6 percent, and McDaniels is among them. He’s also proven inconsistent and hasn’t shot particularly well, hitting 29 percent on 241 3-point attempts, a concern in his scouting report entering the pros. In 16 G-League games two years ago, he shot 35.3 percent on 85 threes, an encouraging sample during which he looked too advanced for that level, as he should have. He hasn’t shot poorly enough to write him off as a potential corner threat, and his ability to attack a wild close-out from there helps.
Despite the obvious attractive parts of his game, advanced metrics aren’t fond of McDaniels (multi-year RPM grades him as a big minus offensively and a slight minus defensively and defensive box plus-minus is much less kind) and he’s struggled to gain any sort of consistent role outside of Philly. Again, some of that is situational, with three homes in three seasons and a long stretch spent on the bench for a team that couldn’t afford to develop him on the fly. He’s had stretches where his 6-foot-6, 205-pound frame and near-7-foot wingspan look like they could help build a multi-position defender, and when he’s on the move in transition or attacking from the corners, he’s tough to stop without fouling. It’s easy to watch the tape and come away really excited about McDaniels. There’s just a lot of noise – in either direction – in each of the small samples that make up his career to date.
He’s also still just 24. It was only three years ago that he was a bubble first-round pick and looked to be a Norman Powell-like find for Philly (you know, before Norman Powell was found by Toronto), and the Raptors have a clear belief that they can help non-shooters develop into shooters. A human highlight reel protecting the rim or running the open court, McDaniels has enough tools to take a camp flier on and see if it clicks, and deals like this have minimal downside and the upside of a useful bench piece. It’s tough to ask for better late-summer rolls of the training camp dice than a player like McDaniels, especially without giving a sizable enough guarantee to threaten the team’s tax standing. McDaniels looked really, really promising not too long ago, and that’s worth kicking the tires on.
The road to the roster could be tough. The Raptors now have 18 bodies headed to camp and will likely add two more, with the competition for the final spot or two, particularly at the forward positions, really looking like a heated one. Toronto is surely excited to have such a tough competition driving the entire group, and there’s a solid chance that of the McDaniels-McKinnie-Miller group, someone cracks the roster to help hold down the wing rotation until OG Anunoby is healthy or Bruno Caboclo proves himself ready for playing time. It’s fairly clear the Raptors are looking for versatility with these last few roster spots, too, given the number of names on the depth chart that could easily slide into two or three different positions, which is only logical given their need for flexible two-way pieces deep in the rotation.
As things stand, the roster looks as follows:
PG: Lowry, Wright, VanVleet, Brown (two-way)
SG: DeRozan, Powell
SF: Miles, Caboclo, Anunoby (injured), McKinnie (small guarantee), McDaniels (small guarantee)
PF: Ibaka, Siakam, Miller (two-way), Wiltjer (non-guaranteed)
C: Valanciunas, Poeltl, Nogueira, Meeks (Exhibit 10)
This all should make for a pretty fun training camp. Only 13 spots are guaranteed, and really only the two-way pieces are assured of not making the final 15 (although you can definitely make some assumptions). McKinnie vs. McDaniels will probably be the camp battle to watch, and depending on the progress of Caboclo and timeline of Anunoby, the winner could end up at the back end of the rotation (fourth wing/10th man) to start the season.