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Know the Prospect: Dyson Daniels

In which Russell swoons for the young Australian.

2022 NBA All-Star - G League Ignite v Cleveland Charge Photo by KeShawn Ennis/NBAE via Getty Images

Odds are, you already know about Dyson Daniels, an athletic, aggressive defender and budding playmaker from Australia.

You probably heard that he’s a top target for the New York Knicks in this year’s NBA Draft, hence you’ve already watched YouTube clips (and been impressed) and skimmed profiles about the Boy Wonder from Bendigo (and been impressed).

Perhaps you received your indispensable Knicks Film School newsletter and read their extensive write-up about the barely-19-year old guard/wing who turned heads at the Chicago combine last week. He met with nine teams, including New York:

Maybe you’re a basketball uber-nerd who follows the entire G-League, not just the Westchester club when Deuce McBride and Jericho Sims are playing, so you knew LONG before the rest of us losers that this Daniels kid was ready to pop. Between the G-League Showcase and G-League Ignite Tour, he played 29 games and averaged 11.6 points, 6.7 boards, 4.8 dimes, and two steals per contest.

No doubt, you’re aware that past Ignite alums include Jonathan Kuminga and Josh Green, both currently employed in the NBA. Or that before playing for the Ignite, Daniels spent time at the NBA Global Academy, where he practiced against guys like Josh Giddey (the first Academy graduate to be selected in the NBA Draft). In fact, Daniels remains in regular contact with Giddey and still works out with him when possible.

While reading those other profiles, you must have noticed that Daniels shot 45% from deep over his last nine games, that he sprouted two inches while preparing for the draft (and still growing!), and that he’s a defensive hound. Finally, you’d be remiss to have missed these details from the combine: 6’7.5” in sneakers, 195.2 lbs, 6’10.5” wingspan, and 4.9% body fat.

Well, aren’t I late to the party? Short of using my formidable press cred to secure an interview with the NBA Global Academy product (I’m coming for your parking spot, Fred Katz), there’s little untrodden ground left to explore.

Fortunately, obscure Australian podcasters love talking to Mr. Double-D. A quick search turned up multiple interviews, from which I snipped some fresh-ish quotes, and, hoo boy, did I get excited listening to him.

Daniels hails from a small, country town in Australia, but thanks to his American father, who played in the South East Australian Basketball League after hooping for NC State, Dyson has extensive family in North Carolina.

Family is important to Daniels, and it took some effort to convince his parents to let him forgo college. Daniels told the podcast Ball and the Real World, “The way the G-League is able to help develop players...you play NBA style, NBA times, 12 minute quarters...everything about it is NBA. You’re playing against NBA talent, as well. Having that and the development the G-League offered me was something that I really wanted…. The G-League had the best to offer out of all the options that I had.”

He added, “There’s always education I can go back and get. This opportunity in the G-League only comes once.”

Amen, brother. Here he goes for 23 points, nine rebounds, and six assists against the SLC Stars:

Even though the pigeons in the farm system are not conventionally hitting the books, the NBA does provide a practical education plan. Through the Professional Pathway Program (via Arizona State University), Daniels attended weekly Zoom classes on topics including nutrition, money management, and life skills. He also learned about real estate and is keen on investing his money along that avenue. College? Who needs college?

There are several great ex-pro’s grooming the G-Leaguers, too. Dyson cited Rod Strickand, a member of the Ignite staff, as being one of the most significant influences in his development. “Rod’s been helping me a lot...I work on my ball-handling and finishing with Rod.”

While his offense needs polish, Dyson’s defense truly shines. He told AUS Hoopers TV, “Just being able to be the best defender is one of my main goals because the best defender always has to be on the court. Definitely, defense is a huge part of my game and I embrace the challenge of being able to guard the best player.” Be still my heart.

Daniels named Alex Caruso as a player he tries to model himself after. “Alex Caruso is one of the best defenders in the league, no doubt. Just the way he moves his feet, his instincts... Being able to model my game after him, you know, put my defense first and my offense will come…it’s been really beneficial to watch highlights of him.”

Leon! This is the guy! The Aussie!

Sure, there are some reservations. The Ignite had the G-League’s 23rd-ranked offense, and some of that falls on Dyson. Per game, he was third on the team for minutes (31.2) but only sixth in points. One might be more convinced of his scoring potential if he’d been a top point-getter on his squad.

Asked what he needs to work on the most, Dyson said, “It’s definitely my shooting. I just need to show that I can become a consistent shooter and knock down the three-ball...That will open everything up.”

He noted also that the level of competition in the G-League surprised him, and it took 10 games before he found his stride. That explains why his efficiency jumped midway through his G-League run.

Never fear, Knicks fans. You can count on Daniels to work to improve his shooting and skills, and he should progress nicely under the guidance of an NBA staff. He is committed to being the gnarliest defender on the team—he’s already capable of guarding 1-through-4. And he’s been playing against professional competition, not the mixed bag of talent that one finds on the college basketball circuit, so he will be ready to take the floor in game one of the 2022-23 campaign.

Daniels presents as an articulate young man, calm and unflappable, who avoids the toxicity of the Internet by “putting down the phone and getting to work.” He certainly seems capable of handling the pressures of the New York market. And the Bus Driver thinks the Knicks are interested:

Though he may never reach superstardom, Daniels can surely become a key player on a quality team. And hell, he’s still growing thanks to the nutritional heft of Vegemite! He might be seven feet tall by 2024!

How would he fit on the Knicks? Let the coaches figure that out. Tom Thibodeau relishes defense, so there’s at least a chance Daniels would get minutes (second unit, natch).

Frankly, Daniels has all the characteristics that Thibs and the brass have sought in their previous draft picks: an impeccable work ethic, tenacious defense, intelligence, and a positive, team-first attitude. If he’s on the board when the Knicks select, I bet they take him. And I just might celebrate at the Outback Steakhouse in Vestal.