The exhibition games have come to a close for the New Orleans Pelicans in Las Vegas, and while multiple players acquitted themselves well, Dyson Daniels’ performance was the most important one to take away from the proceedings.
“I don’t think there’s anything more important for him in his career right now than these minutes,” Casey Hill said after the Pelicans’ 94-86 victory over the Warriors.
The New Orleans summer league head coach was spot-on in his assessment.
The Pelicans will be entering next season with legitimate playoff aspirations. They may even soon be of the championship variety, provided good health follows. For that to become reality though, key role players must take crucial steps forward in their development in addition to Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum living up to the hype as a formidable trio.
Trey Murphy, Herb Jones and Jose Alvarado are ahead of the curve in relation to the other young talent on the roster, but don’t overlook the 20-year-old from Bendigo, Australia. His talent and versatility are immense, he’s going to be counted on to deliver by Willie Green, and based on the last ten days, Daniels’ development is trending in the right direction.
Daniels stuffed summer league stat sheets on a game-by-game basis. His per-36-minute averages compare extremely favorably to the production witnessed from his rookie season.
|2022-23 Regular Season||7.8||6.5||4.6||2.0||1.5||0.4||4.2||49.2%||3.0||31.4%||1.4||65.0%|
|2023 Summer League||17.7||8.7||7.7||3.4||2.2||1.5||10.2||54.8%||4.8||10.0%||7.5||67.7%|
It’s obviously quite clear to all onlookers that Daniels’ shot very much remains a work in progress. He made only two of his 20 three-point attempts. The free throw conversion rate needs to be higher, at least over 70.0 percent. However, there was marked improvement everywhere else.
Daniels didn’t show a lack of confidence on the floor, unlike last season. He not only displayed dominant defensive instincts, incredible rebounding skills and a wonderful passing ability, he consistently sought to attack.
He often proved successful.
There were nice finishes at the rim. Several soft floaters fell as well. And although the jumpers missed many more times than not, it was key to watch him continue to shoot when given the opportunity.
“He’s been way better,” Hill said after game 2. “He’s not thinking quite as much. He’s being aggressive. One of the things he was doing early on was he wasn’t looking to score. He was looking to make plays for others. He’s got to get downhill. He’s got to be a scoring threat because that’s what opens everything else up.”
That’s a far cry from less than just a few months ago.
That’s why the focus should be on the areas of improvement rather than failure when depicting Daniels’ 2023 summer league run. Although the results came against lesser competition, he made legitimate strides. There was not only evidence of willingness but purposeful aggression. There were tactically smart reads that led to easy scores.
Confidence is everything. Without it, opponents will find ways to take advantage of it, similar to any perceived liability in competitive sports. Hesitation not only shows up in personal stats, it can lead to a negative domino-effect through entire lineups. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, for instance, to learn that the Pelicans had one of the lowest offensive ratings when Daniels was on the floor in 2022-23.
If this summer league doesn’t prove to be a mirage, though, we should expect for that to change soon, even if the outside shooting fails to develop quickly.
Daniels can impact winning in so many different ways. He’s already a versatile lockdown defender. He can control the glass about as well as anyone at his size. He can spark the transition game with a long rebound, steal or block, lead the break and either setup a teammate or finish.
Other tools in the toolbox like reliably initiating the half-court offense or proving a capable leader on the court seem to be around the corner.
So give Daniels’ ineffective jumper a much longer leash. His shot isn’t broken; in fact, it looks more appealing now than it did last April. Results have yet to follow, but the phrase, “growth isn’t linear,” should still be fresh in all avid Bally Sports New Orleans listeners.
For now, store all the summer league positives witnessed in the back of your mind. There’s a good chance that’s the new reality moving forward. Then be sure to remind yourself that Daniels will be entering his sophomore campaign at a younger age than three of the five top 2023 NBA draft selections.
The future is bright is an oft-overused quote, but in the case of Dyson Daniels, it’s well-placed optimism.
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