Puzzle pieces: Dyson Daniels further improves ball handling for OKC Thunder


The ball handler. Over the past decade in NBA play, the range of players handling the ball has expanded dramatically. The days of guards playing in the perimeter and frontcourt characters playing strictly in the post are long gone. Now there is no fixed position to launch the attack – and in some cases – bigger is better. G League Ignite Prospect Dyson Daniels fits this description of the new era.

Daniels, 19, chose to join the NBA G League Ignite this season after showing his potential at the NBA Global Academy. At 6-foot-7 and 195 pounds, Daniels fits into the mold of a “jumbo guard,” earning success as an on-ball distributor while defending well at the other end.

In 14 games with the Ignite, Daniels averaged 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.9 steals.

Offensively, Dyson Daniels makes you pay with his playmaking ability. Although he’s not the fastest player on the pitch, Daniels does a great job of controlling the pace offensively, usually sweeping the passing lanes as soon as he catches the ball. Daniels is a stellar exit passer, often having the fastbreak layout charted when carrying a rebound. In the half-court, he is a good decision maker who comes off a screen as he is both good at kicking the roll-man, attacking himself or looking for a cross pass. Daniels struggled from the ground up, shooting just 13 of 51 (25.5%) on the season. So, that’s the main repair area moving forward.

In a world where Oklahoma City needed more ballhandling, Daniels would fit right into Bricktown’s plan. The problem is, however, with ball handlers in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddeyand Tre Mann playing integral roles on the ball, it’s hard to see him feeding properly with the Thunder. It goes without saying though, you can never have too many ballhandlers, and if Oklahoma City wants to double down, Daniels is another Giddey-esque “jumbo keeper.”

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On the defensive front, Daniels is highly skilled and he has a lot more potential. Daniels has taken defensive possessions both inside and on the perimeter this season, and he’s had his moments on both. As a perimeter defender, he does a great job of cutting potential angles and he’s barely taken out of plays through screens. Inside, he’s not the biggest threat, but his excellent timing on blocks and rebounds has made him a nuisance against G League crosses – most of which are highly decorated in the paint. That versatility of Daniels is on display with his 1.9 interceptions per contest and his reps playing 1-3.

Daniels is the ideal candidate for the Thunder from a defensive standpoint. The Thunder have found a niche by acquiring bigger guards throughout the roster, primarily with Giddey at 6-foot-8. Daniels adds another 6-foot-8 frame, and with his defensive prowess in the G League, he’s a fitting 1-3 plug-in, helping to add some glue to OKC’s style of play.

Even with a potential abrasion in terms of ball handling, it’s clear to see why the Thunder would show some interest in Daniels. His major upside as a playmaker and defender meets their current blueprint, and a three, if added, would help aid Oklahoma City’s shooting woes.

If the Thunder are looking to bring in Daniels, their picks at 2 and 12 fall a bit off the scale either way. Daniels had gone from a late lottery contender to a Top 8 prospect, similar to Giddey last season. The fit may not be perfect girth-wise, but the competence is evident. Whether Sam Presti looking to target talent only, consider Daniels as a potential trade option for the Thunder.

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