Dyson Daniels is quickly building his name in the NBA.
The Aussie young gun’s impressive form has seen his role gradually increase during the first quarter of the season for a New Orleans Pelicans team that has charged into the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed every time he’s been on the court.
The 19-year-old Daniels has started five games and played big minutes in recent weeks for a team that is now considered a true title contender despite dealing with injuries to key players Brandon Ingram and Herb Jones.
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Thursday, December 15
But those increased chances could have gone to anyone, with the Bendigo-born product, who was drafted with the eighth overall pick six months ago, guaranteeing those chances to star.
While people Down Under know another promising Aussie has made a splash in the NBA, he’s also turning heads in the US media.
The Ringer is set to release its 2023 NBA Top Trade Value list in the coming days — which ranks the 70 best players in the league based on current production, potential and how much they’re being paid — and Bill Simmons explains Daniels. Even if they did not perish, he deserved the honor.
In fact, Simmons has so far indicated he could find a spot for Daniels when the 70s are officially released — a feat that has made Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal ranked 70-67 clear. Compared to Daniels’ modest salary of $5.5 million (218th highest paid player in the league), his contract is lucrative.
“Daniel came out and looked like he was 25 (years old). When I’m done, he might be on the list,” he said of the Aussie on the Bill Simmons podcast.
“I really like the way he carries himself…defensively he’s already there.
“It looks like he’s going to be fun to play with and I want to see how he evolves for them and whether or not they can get minutes for them — because (New Orleans) is competitive.”
As Simmons pointed out, how Pelicans coach Willie Green uses Daniels when the team is healthy will be a fascinating look, considering the team has hit the road with plenty of opportunities.
For someone who wasn’t part of the Pels’ rotation on opening night, in some shape or form, a big role for the youngster is clearly assured.
Regardless of whether he plays significant minutes, he’s proven to be a great find for New Orleans and a real impact player in the league, a bright prospect on one of the most promising teams in the league.
“When the Wizards drafted in the most recent draft, I was really praying that he would be available. I thought he would be a great defensive addition to the team,” NBA analyst Joe House said on the Bill Simmons podcast.
He plays as hard as a mom and it’s incredible to have him on the Pelicans.
On the stat sheet, Daniel’s averages of 5.7 points, 3.7 rebounds per game don’t jump off the page.
Behind the 6-foot-7 frame (201 cm), though, is the versatile guard/guard who makes an impact in a variety of ways.
He’s worked defensively against superstars like LeBron James, Pascal Chow, Chris Paul and Devin Booker and Luka Doncic — a welcome return to the NBA, the first time he’s played real minutes in his opening career — but he’s always ready for seismic matchups like this one.
Geez, how many 19-year-old rookies can you put up with such a big name? It’s no surprise that Green is getting more minutes.
Also admirable is Daniel’s play at the end of the court, able to switch between different opponents during a defensive set.
But he’s shown flashes on the offensive end — running the offense with his incredible court vision and going into attack mode when he finds an opening — consistently making the right play and displaying a high level of basketball IQ.
“Unbelievable ball handling and distribution … but the defensive part of the basketball game is where he’s most comfortable,” former NBA player David Wesley said on Bali Sports.
“I feel like we know he can play a good offense when called upon.
“He is not afraid of the moment and is not in a hurry. He has good pace for the game.
But his awareness and his maturity on the defensive side of the ball is unbelievable – you don’t normally get that – the reads and the spins and all that.
“He’s a natural on defense and has some offensive game, so that’s a bonus.”
While a pick 8 pick came into the NBA with high expectations, not many thought he or the Pelicans would get here so quickly.
Daniels doesn’t have Josh Giddy’s role as the starting point guard for the OKC Thunder last season, helping him blossom and put up big numbers, but contributing to a credible contender is arguably more impressive.
Not much else from the 2022 draft class — or previous draft classes — has produced for playoff teams, especially since Daniels’ recent play has catapulted him into All-Rookie team calculations.
As The Athletic’s William Guillory noted, Daniels’ ability to make an immediate impact on a winning team “shows he’s not like most starters.”
“Life as an NBA rookie can come at you fast. It’s hard trying to find your feet in a new situation when your idols want to put you on their latest highlight tape. Some handle it better than others,” Guillory wrote theathletic.com.
“Unlike most top-10 picks, Daniel’s debut in the league is coming against a team that doesn’t expect him to produce right away. . But injuries to other key players forced Daniels into the rotation earlier than expected.
“As a result, New Orleans is learning that Daniels is not like most rookies. His fearlessness, one of the main traits that attracted the Pelicans during the pre-draft process, was on full display. He carries himself with an unusual demeanor for players his age. He enjoys being called upon to guard the best goalscorers in the world.
With the opportunities he’s gotten, Daniels has proven to be a far cry from the long-term project the Pelicans originally hoped for. He’ll be tough to keep off the floor this season if the team is fully healthy, and his play at such a young age will force the entire organization to rethink his long-term ceiling.