Dyson Daniels displaying impressive growth after rough season start

Dyson Daniels is in the process of making that proverbial leap during his second NBA season. Most have yet to acknowledge it — but not teammates and coaches.

Following the loss to the Houston Rockets last week, a fourth consecutive defeat for the New Orleans Pelicans, Brandon Ingram nonchalantly brought up Daniels’ name unprovoked in a postgame interview.

“We’ll figure it out. We’ll find mismatches on the floor and we’ll attack, but the good part about tonight is Dyson Daniels got better, controlling the offense, getting to the rim and making the right reads.”

With Jordan Hawkins’ brilliant start to his career, the splashy returns of Herb Jones and Naji Marshall from injury and other Pelicans storylines dominating the news cycle of late, it’s no surprise that Daniels has flown under the radar, especially after he got off to the slowest of starts.

Daniels opened this season by missing each of his first six free throw attempts. He also had connected on only two of 12 jumpers from the 3-point line and blew a handful of lay-ins right at the rim in the Pels’ first two games against the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks.

Following the inauspicious results on offense witnessed his rookie season, it was easy to begin questioning Daniels’ stock in earnest. Where was the evidence of growth? While the defensive contributions have always been top notch, he still wasn’t bringing anything to the table on the other end. But then something wonderful happened. His confidence began to flourish and the performances started to shine.

Starting with the Pelicans’ victory over the Detroit Pistons, Daniels has yet to miss a free throw, knocking down all eight of his attempts. He’s made 10 of 22 shots from 3-point range. To put it elegantly, his game is opening up like a fine wine and there’s plenty of proof in his statistics per 36 minutes.

PPGREBASTTOVSTLFG%3PT%FT%
2022-23 season7.86.54.62.01.541.8%31.4%65.0%
10/25-11/1 (4 games)9.26.82.81.61.635.7%16.7%12.5%
11/2-11/14 (7 games)12.66.55.22.32.051.0%45.5%100%

“Dyson is getting better and better,” Green said after Thursday’s practice. “You all can see the step that he’s taken from last year to this season. His defense has always been good — he’s gotten even better — and he’s rebounding the ball, but I think offensively, he’s finding his identity. He knows that he can attack the basket. He can go up and finish. And he’s making open shots.”

The 3-point shot is dropping with much greater consistency. Daniels has made 50% of his catch-and-shoot 3-point opportunities over the last seven games. That’s important because of all the eyes that Zion Williamson and Ingram draw on drives. His floater has also been money.

https://vimeo.com/885782048?share=copy#t=36

Daniels claims that a change in his routine has helped elevate his shooting proficiencies.

“Rather than getting my shots up in the practice facility, I’ve been getting them up {inside the Smoothie King Center},” Daniels said following Sunday’s loss. “I feel like its a better feel for me, better depth perception and stuff like that. I’ve been enjoying that. The shots been going in the last few games and I’ll continue to work on that. It’s something I need to do, be able to make shots when BI and Z’s gravity comes towards me.”

Of course, no discussion would be complete without applauding everything that Daniels does on the court. He and Herb Jones set the tone a few days ago against the Dallas Mavericks, defending with great physicality.

Luka Doncic (16) and Kyrie Irving (17) were held to season lows in points. The Pelicans enjoyed season highs in points off turnovers (31) and fast break points (46).

“It started with Dyson,” Williamson said after Tuesday’s victory. “I know everybody has their own opinion, but Dyson pressing up full court like that — but not only pressing up, cause it’s not easy taking Luka out of his game — he was really getting into Luka. It started with Dyson and carried into everybody else.”

Daniels’ marks of 1.4 steals and 3.0 deflections per game rank towards the top of the league, but he offers so much more that leads to winning basketball. He always shows a real penchant for making the right play, including something as mundane as boxing out an opponent.

Daniels has also been a major component of advancing the ball up the court and playmaking, especially during the last four games. Since moving into the starting lineup against the Minnesota Timberwolves last week, Daniels is second on the team in touches (67.8) and time of possession (4.0) behind only Ingram.

With Jose Alvarado still yet to make an appearance and CJ McCollum getting shelved with a small pneumothorax in his right lung, Daniels’ ball-handling has been a godsend. It’s allowed Ingram to play more off the ball and given the Pelicans another look in the half-court offense.

“You always know what you’re going to get with Dyson,” Herb Jones said on Tuesday. “He’s going to show up, try and make the right play every time, and play hard. That’s all you can really ask for and he does it night in, night out.”

Everyone should be paying close attention to what Dyson Daniels is doing right now. He is not only emerging as a key cog in the rotation, he’s also playing the best basketball of his young career.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunesSpotifyStitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.

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One thought on “Dyson Daniels displaying impressive growth after rough season start

  1. Nice article Oleh. Hopefully DD can keep it moving. I think if everyone can have the intensity that he, Herb and Naji had last game, this team could go a long way. And getting Jose, Trigga, and CJ back will help. With Dyson running the point it seems we have better ball movement and less of ISO ball. We are going to need that intense defense and ball movement again tonight.

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