“What an unlikely hero!” exclaimed Mike Breen, play-by-play announcer for game 3 of the Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets playoff series, after Troy Daniels drained the tie-breaking three with 11 seconds left. The Rockets would not relinquish that lead, their lone victory so far in the series. The shot would prompt headlines like this, “Troy Daniels, D-League call-up, saves Rockets’ season,” “Rockets win game three thriller over Blazers as Troy Daniels shines,” and “Houston beats Portland on a game-winning 3-pointer by unheralded rookie Troy Daniels.” No one saw this coming, but should they have?
How unlikely was it that Daniels got a chance to shoot and drain that three? Not as unlikely as you think. The five-man crew on the court during that shot; Dwight Howard, James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley and the aforementioned Daniels. Your first question must be…where is Chandler Parsons? Parsons entered the OT period with five fouls and was called for his sixth just 1:40 in, bringing in their next best bench shooter, Troy Daniels.
It made sense that he was on the court, but why did he get the ball? Let’s go back to Virginia Commonwealth University to answer that question.
After toiling away on Shaka Smart’s1 “havoc”-based VCU teams for two years, Daniels was given a chance to come off the bench in his junior season. The shooting guard took almost seven threes/game for Smart, converting 38% of them. This jumped to 8.6/game in his senior year, and putting 40% of them through the net.2
Still, Daniels didn’t have much hype leading into the NBA draft, and that led to him going undrafted. He was signed by the Charlotte Bobcats originally, but underwhelming performance in the Summer League3 resulted in Daniels being let go. He resurfaced once or twice with Houston, but spent the majority of the year with their D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
The 6’4” guard took more threes per game than any other player, by three. Daniels averaged 12.5 attempts per game from deep, while shooting 40.1%. High volume, high success as evidenced by his D-League shot chart.4
Daniels’ numbers from beyond the arc were so good that he broke the D-League record for number of three pointers made in a season in just the 20th game.5 He would finish with 240 makes on 599 attempts.
The Roanoke, Virginia native got into five games for the Rockets during the regular season, including the season finale against the New Orleans Pelicans where he took 11 threes, hitting six of them (54.5%).
Earlier in the game three win, Daniels went two-for-five from deep. All of this leads me to one conclusion; why was it such a surprise that Daniels was the one taking this shot? Yes, Harden, Lin and probably even Beverley were more likely players to see take the shot, but would they have been the right decision? Maybe. But, looking at the play again, there is a scramble for the ball. Confusion ensues and Lin finds himself in the middle of three Blazers defenders. Lin finds Daniels calling for the ball on the left-wing. Harden is wide open in the right-corner, OK, that’s a surprise. The rest could potentially be history in the shooting career of Daniels.
Where does Daniels go from here? At 6’4” and 205 lbs., Daniels doesn’t have the height advantage to play anywhere on the wing like Kyle Korver does (and he doesn’t shoot 47% from three…yet). Daniels career could resemble a late-career Ray Allen more likely. He doesn’t have a great ability to get to the hoop, only shooting 2% better from the field as a whole than he did from three. This isn’t a future Harden, this is a deadly catch and shoot specialist. If Daniels develops, this could spell the end of Parsons in Houston because of the cost of re-signing him in the future.6
For now, let’s just enjoy the emergence of a new cult favorite and possible three-point machine, as evidenced here – The Sniper from the Vipers.
Full disclosure: Yet another basketball man I am enamored with ↩
Thank you NBA.com ↩
Parsons is a prime candidate for a big restricted free agency offer if his option is declined this season, it won’t. Otherwise, he is likely to get big offers in free agency after the 2014-15 season ↩