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Puzzle Pieces: Dyson Daniels Enhances Ball-Handling Further for OKC Thunder

You can never have too many ball handlers, Dyson Daniels strengthens the Thunder in this aspect.

The ball handler. Over the last decade in NBA play, the range of ball-handling players has widened drastically. The days of guards playing the perimeter and frontcourt figures playing strictly in the post have been long gone. Now, there's no set position for kickstarting the offense – and in some cases – the bigger, the better. G League Ignite prospect Dyson Daniels fits this new-era description.

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

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

Offensively, Dyson Daniels makes you pay with his playmaking ability. Despite not being the fastest player on the floor, Daniels does an excellent job at controlling the pace offensively, typically scanning for passing lanes as soon as he grabs the ball. Daniels is a stellar outlet passer, frequently having the layout of the fastbreak mapped out when hauling a rebound. In the halfcourt, he is a good decision maker coming off a screen as he’s both skilled in kicking to the roll-man, attacking himself, or searching for a cross-court pass. Daniels struggled from deep, shooting a mere 13-of-51 (25.5%) on the season. So, that’s the primary area of fixing moving forward.

In a world where Oklahoma City needed more ball-handling, Daniels would fit right into Bricktown’s blueprint. The issue is, however, with ball handlers in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Tre Mann playing integral on-ball roles, it’s hard to see him getting proper nurturement with the Thunder. This goes without saying though, you can never have too many ball handlers, and if Oklahoma City wants to double down, Daniels is another Giddey-Esque “jumbo guard.”

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On the defensive front, Daniels is highly-skilled, and he carries a lot more potential. Daniels took defensive possessions both on the interior and perimeter this season, and he had his moments on both. As a perimeter defender, he does a great job at cutting off potential angles and he’s hardly taken out of plays via screens. Inside, he’s not the biggest threat, but his great timing on blocks and rebounds made him pesky against G League centers – most of whom are highly decorated in the paint. This versatility from Daniels is displayed with his 1.9 steals per contest and his reps playing 1-3.

Daniels is the perfect fit for the Thunder from a defensive perspective. The Thunder have found a niche in acquiring bigger guards throughout the lineup, 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 suitable plug-in 1-3, helping to add some glue to OKC’s playstyle.

Even with 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 cater towards their current blueprint, and a three, if added, would help aid Oklahoma City’s shooting woes.

If the Thunder are looking to bring on Daniels, their selections at 2 and 12 fall a bit off the scale in both directions. Daniels had trended from a late-lottery candidate into a Top 8 prospect, similar to Giddey last season. The fit may not be perfect from a perimeter standpoint, but the skill is obvious. If Sam Presti is looking to target solely off talent, look at Daniels as a potential trade-up option for the Thunder.

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