Ex-VCU star Troy Daniels deserves more playing time in Denver

Illustration by Noelle Hepworth

Ryan Grube, Contributing Writer

In today’s basketball world, the ability to shoot a perimeter jumpshot is a knack that more and more teams are seeking in their athletes — and that more players are attempting to add to their arsenals.

For former VCU guard Troy Daniels (2009-13), the sought-after art of shooting the basketball has never been an issue. Originally a recruit of ex-VCU coach Anthony Grant, who headed the Rams from 2006-09, Daniels — 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 185 pounds — arrived on the black and gold’s campus as an undersized and under-recruited shooting guard.

Daniels was and never has been a lockdown defender. He isn’t known for his ball handles, and his assist numbers don’t particularly stick out. He recorded just 0.4 assists on average and 1.3 per game throughout his college and NBA careers, respectively.

Daniels’ 3-point marksmanship has given him an upper hand over the rest of the NBA and more playing time for the Denver Nuggets’ bubble playoffs.

Daniels has bounced around the league since going undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft, earning the classic “NBA journeyman” title to his name. In total, the guard has played for seven NBA teams to date — Rockets, Timberwolves, Hornets, Grizzlies, Suns, Lakers and Nuggets — never lasting more than two seasons with any given club.

But on every team he’s played for, Daniels has earned praise from his coaches and teammates for his pure shooting ability.

In his most recent NBA stint with the Lakers, future Hall-of-Famer LeBron James nicknamed the journeyman “layup” for how easy it was to rely on Daniels to knock down an open jumpshot.

The constant praise begs the question as to why Daniels can’t stick with one particular team, and more so, why are his minutes scaled so low in every rotation.

“I always have something to prove every time I step on the court,” Daniels told The Denver Post in July “I’m going on year seven undrafted. I was overlooked. I’m always overlooked.”

Over the course of his NBA career, Daniels has averaged 14.9 minutes per game, equating to 6.6 points per contest. He shot 40.1% from the field and 39.5% from behind the arc.

Some critics have cited the ex-VCU star’s inconsistency, or his lack of ability to deliver in clutch situations. The reality of those scenarios: because Daniels is played so sparingly, he often comes in cold off the bench.

When he’s on the floor consistently throughout a game, Daniels does not disappoint. In the opening round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs, Daniels — just a rookie at the time — rattled home a game-winning triple to give the Rockets a Game 3 win over Portland.

On Jan. 25, 2016, Daniels sank his eighth 3-pointer of the game for the Hornets to give Charlotte a 129-128 double-overtime win over Sacramento. Daniels finished that contest with a then-career high 28 points.

Most recently, on July 22, Daniels capped off a bubble scrimmage with two clutch threes in the final two minutes of play to give Denver a win over the Wizards. 

Daniels concluded the match with a game-high 22 points. He followed that output with 28 points against New Orleans in the Nuggets’ final scrimmage heading into the NBA playoff seeding games.  

Per 36 minutes of playing time, Daniels has averaged 15.9 points per game during his career, connecting on four triples per contest.

The Nuggets sport a taller lineup with multiple bigs and forwards that can push the ball up the court. Daniels’ play style not only presents open lanes for ball handlers, but his shooting range also creates opportunities for Denver to space the floor. 

The clutch shots have been displayed. The pure shooting is there. The scoring potential is certainly there. The playing time is not.   

With guards Gary Harris and Will Barton currently battling injuries, Daniels is the only healthy shooting guard listed on the Nuggets’ roster.

Currently locked into a tight first-round series with the Jazz, and with a potential playoff run on the table, Denver needs to ramp up Daniels’ minutes. His marksmanship can certainly provide a spark for coach Mike Malone and company.      

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