Born on the 17th March 2003, Daniels grew up in a country town in Victoria called Bendigo. His dad is an American who came to Australia to play basketball after playing at NC State. His mum is Australian and has played volleyball and tennis in the past. He has an older brother, Kai, who will be entering his sophomore year playing at Regis University, an NCAA D2 school in Colorado. Daniels also has a younger brother, Dash, who has been identified as a young talent as he has been named to the Victoria Country U16 team for the upcoming Australian U16 Nationals.
Growing up in Bendigo, Daniels was a standout at the junior levels earning selections to the Victorian Country teams at the Australian Nationals. In 2018, he represented Australia at the U15 Oceania Championships. A year later in 2019 he started playing in the NBL1 for the Bendigo Braves. 2019 was also the year that Daniels made the move to Canberra to join the NBA Global Academy. This past year Daniels was able to make his senior team debut for Australia playing against New Zealand in a FIBA Qualifier game in a makeshift squad due to not many players being available to play.
Daniels has made some amazing improvements to his body and athleticism over the past 18 months. At the NBA Academy Games back in July 2019, Daniels measured at 6’4 without shoes and with a 6’7 wingspan. He has definitely grown at least another inch since.
Daniels really stands out athletically in Australia. He explodes off the floor, especially off of two feet which he does way more than off one foot. Physically it is rather noticeable how strong he is. When he does go towards the rim you can see him bumping bigger defenders backwards and hanging in the air to finish. As far as his explosiveness goes, I’d say his first step is good but not quite elite.
Below are some clips, the first from him at the 2019 NBA Academy Games and the second from the 2021 Australian Under-20 Nationals. You can clearly see the changes in his body with more mass on his body and overall improved athleticism.
Mainly playing at the guard spots during his junior career, Daniels has shown a great ability to make plays for himself and others. As a passer, he is best when he gets downhill and can find open teammates after forcing the defense to collapse. Generally, he has a pretty good sense of where his teammates are but he might be prone to premeditating that a teammate should be open and can result in turnovers if defenders stay home. He is usually pretty good at finding teammates who are more than a pass away on the perimeter. These passes are usually accurate but can be a bit wayward when he is on the move.
You often see Daniels attacking in transition where his skill as a playmaker really stands out; push ahead and outlet passes are common from him. When he is pushing the pace with shooters on the wing you can really see his court sense for where his teammates are and he often finds them.
One of the other areas you most often see Daniels creating is from pick and rolls. Most of the time he shows great awareness and patience. More often than not he is coming off a screen looking to score but he is still a capable passer if he sees multiple defenders. He prefers to hit shooters rather than the roll man but is still capable of dropping the ball to the roller. Daniels has shown creativity and attempted multiple different passes to get the ball there. These include wrap around passes, pocket passes and pulling back with a dribble and throwing an overhead pass over a smaller defender.
As a ball handler Daniels isn’t super advanced but he is reliable. When he is driving he usually has two moves that he goes to, either his right to left cross or a hesi on his left and then cross back to his right. These two moves are really effective for him and he can usually blow by defenders and get a decent amount of straight line drives to the rim. While his handle isn’t super advanced he is decisive with when to drive, pass or shoot which limits turnovers as a result of his handle.
In the past Daniels has had some troubles with his decision making, especially when going towards the rim with a live dribble. This is most often seen when he is playing against top competition. The main problem he had was driving the ball and leaving his feet. He then gets stuck in the air and turns the ball over. Over the past 18 months, he has definitely improved this part of his game but is still prone to doing it occasionally. I believe this is a consequence of premeditation going towards the rim when he thinks a teammate should be open.
Below are some of his turnovers. There are a mix of reasons why these all occur. A couple are from handling errors and some are wild, over ambitious or premeditated passes.
Right now, Daniels is best on offense when he is going towards the rim. He often gets downhill but there are some things he could get better at or do more consistently. More recently he has shown that he has been more willing to embrace contact when attacking the rim. With his strength and athleticism he is often able to go straight at the shot blocker and finish. If the shot blocker is standing too far under the rim then he will try to put them on a poster. I would like to see him use his slashing ability more off the ball in the future given how functional his athleticism is in a half court setting to allow him to finish at the rim. Plays like the two below show the potential he has as a slasher by the way he uses his body to go right at shot blockers and finish.
When Daniels is going to the rim he relies on his floater quite often. He has great touch on these floaters but with his strength and athleticism, I’d like to see him settling for floaters less often when he can attack shot blockers. Below are some clips of some floaters and little push shots around the rim which show his touch.
Like I said before Daniels has gotten much better at attacking shot blockers and embracing contact recently. However, there are still instances of him avoiding contact. This is a pretty common trait for a young guard. As a result of wanting to avoid contact one of the main things that Daniels does that impacts his shot is taking off too early when attacking the rim. This is something that a lot of young players seem to do and appears to be pretty easily teachable to take an extra dribble as players learn how to protect the ball against better competition with the more experience they get.
At the moment shooting the ball is a work in progress for Daniels. Below is a table full of Daniels’ shooting numbers for threes and free throws tracking back to 2018. The stats here have been compiled by Marius, who you can find on here or on twitter @7_Ft_Schnitzel.
|2020||Premier League 1||5||22||22.7||8||11||72.7|
|2021||Premier League 1||0||4||0||0||0||0|
While these numbers show him to be quite awful as a shooter over the past 3 years, I am very optimistic about his long term potential as a shooter to at least be adequate. For starters, we are taking in to account shots that he has been taking 3 years ago when he was still 15. Daniels has improved a great deal since then. Even though the percentage wouldn’t be the best it would still be better than the current 21.4% if you removed his younger years.
When assessing a player’s shooting ability we need to take into account the difficulty of the shots that they take. I’d say maybe half of the shots that he takes from the perimeter are either coming off movement or him shooting off the dribble. The tough shots help a bit to explain why Daniels shoots a poor percentage. These shots also indicate that there is potential for him to be useful on the ball if he can flash on ball creation ability which ends in made shots from three.
One of the main factors in my belief in Daniels as a shooter is the amazing touch he possesses. I mentioned it before in regards to him shooting floaters but he shoots floaters at a very impressive clip which is an indicator of his great touch. There are no major form problems with his shot, other than a problem with his left hand, his guide hand, that can pull away from the ball before he releases it.
In my opinion, the best part of Daniels’ game at the moment is his defense. Daniels is incredibly disruptive at the point of attack. He moves his feet really well and glides across the court. He stays with guys all the way until the rim sliding his feet and gets a great contest on almost every shot. When someone is driving on him he does a great job of staying vertical to contest the shot. It’s hard to screen him as he tends to get skinny and avoid screens. At the guard spot, he uses his strength to body guys on the perimeter. His length causes trouble for ball handlers and he is able to make many plays defensively. Victoria often used him at the top of a 1-2-2 full court press and let him cause havoc for ball handlers trying to bring the ball up.
Off the ball, Daniels is even more disruptive. His length and instincts allow him to play passing lanes where he displays quickness to explode and pick off passes. What seems like an easy pass never is when he is around. I think he is slightly worse as an off-ball defender compared to an on-ball defender but still overall an amazing defender. He tends to close out really well on shooters and manages to get contests but it does seem he sinks too far down at times. As a defender in the nail, Daniels is extremely effective which really shows off his defensive IQ. When making rotations he is effective mainly due to his length, strength, and athleticism.
Dyson Daniels has huge potential in the game as an athletic, defensive minded wing who can make plays for himself and others as well as potentially shoot. The development in both his physical profile and athleticism as well as his skill level are promising to believe in his continued development going forward. Having played at the guard positions as a junior he has gotten experience as a facilitator which is incredibly valuable at the NBA level to have as many playmakers on the floor.
Whatever Daniels does decide to do for next season will be crucial for his draft stock. He has said that he is still deciding what is best for him. This could be either college or in the NBL as a Next Star. At this stage, I am expecting him to be playing as a Next Star next season. Depending on where he lands he should get minutes as a role player and will have to work hard to get a larger role. His body seems ready for the NBL and I think with consistent minutes and playing a role he could end up as a first round draft pick next year. If he wants to move up towards the lottery he will have to prove that he can create from the perimeter against higher level competition on an almost full-time basis or improve his shooting a considerable amount from where it is currently.