, , ,

Rodney Hood of Duke and KJ McDaniels of Clemson have a number of similarities: they are both going to be 21 on draft night (KJ is 3.5 months younger), they are similarly sized SF prospects (Hood is 2 inches taller, 1-2 inches shorter wingspan), they play in the same conference, they both employ a slashing game but lack advanced ball handling skills, and they both have shot and scored well this year.  Both players posted good box score lines in their recent matchup, but a closer analysis of the game tape highlights their differences.

I compiled a video of the matchup (embedded below).  It is a near comprehensive look at the two players, which includes all possessions where Hood and McDaniels are matched up on each other, all made baskets when they were not matched up, and all other notably good or bad defensive possessions.

Pay attention to how well each player performs defensively in terms of staying in front of their man, fighting through screens, and generally forcing their matchup into difficult shot attempts.

A table of contents has been included in the “about” description on the video’s youtube page, which describes each play with timestamps. It also has been posted to the site and can be accessed here.

Box Score: http://espn.go.com/ncb/boxscore?gameId=400502786

This game gives a nice snapshot of each prospect. Hood is a great shooter who can drive and finish against weaker defensive players. He also is a defensive liability, as both his quicks and instincts are suboptimal. If anybody is wondering why there is no “Hood other defense” section, it is because defense isn’t exactly something Hood does. His lack of quicks also cause him to struggle to drive past a defensive player of KJ’s caliber, so he likely will not be able to get to the rim against NBA caliber defenses on a regular basis.

KJ demonstrated his full array of strengths in this matchup. Defensively he completely took away Hood’s driving ability, and was also able to cut off Quinn Cook’s drive 2 out of 3 times. This speaks well for his lateral quicks as Cook is a quick point guard who is fringe NBA caliber. He showed off the various situations in which he blocks shots (transition, help, and man to man) as he leads the ACC in blocks at 2.8 per game in spite of being a wing. Duke screened him often, and while he was slowed down on occasion, he was able to fight through them on multiple occasions. Overall he showed excellent NBA wing tools with good size (6’6), length (6’9.5 wingspan), strength to fight through screens, quicks to hang with guards, and explosive athleticism at the rim. Combined with good defensive effort (in spite of playing 36 minutes with a heavy offensive workload), instincts, and awareness he clearly has upside to be a good defensive wing in the NBA. He does not project to be a primary option offensively, but he did show the ability to attack both smaller and slower matchups and finish at the rim. While his shooting form is imperfect and he has yet to prove himself as a shooter over a large sample size, he has improved his shot each year at Clemson.

Hood’s advantage lies in shooting and passing, McDaniels in physical tools and defensive acumen.  Here is an assist and shooting comparison with KJ’s numbers on the left and Hood’s on the right (Hood redshirted during 12-13 after transferring from Mississippi State to Duke):

Season AST% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% AST% 3PA 3P% FTA FT%
2011-12 5.2 25 0.280 38 0.579 11.9 129 0.364 41 0.659
2012-13 6.5 96 0.333 79 0.684
2013-14 8.4 60 0.350 78 0.859 12.2 81 0.457 85 0.847
Career 6.9 181 0.331 195 0.733 12 210 0.400 126 0.786

KJ’s improved shot hasn’t been proven over a large sample (he is unlikely to sustain an 86% FT this season), his steady improvement in both 3’s and FT’s strongly suggest that he has been working on his shot and it has genuinely improved over each offseason.  Shooting is a major point of inflection for him, as developing a decent NBA 3 point shot would allow him to fit in most offenses and likely be a useful pro.  Hood has also clearly improved over his redshirt season, and also has shown the ability to shoot off the dribble as only 70% of his made 3’s this season have been assisted (KJ has been assisted 81% and the NCAA average is 84%). Now if we compare defense and rebounding numbers with KJ again on the left:

2011-12 13.4 8.9 2.1 7.5 3.5 13.3 0.8 1.3
2012-13 7.8 14 2.7 8.3
2013-14 8.9 16.8 2.5 9.7 4.2 11.7 1.3 0.7
Career 9.2 14 2.5 8.6 3.7 12.7 1.0 1.1

These comport with the highlights in that KJ makes plays on defense and Hood doesn’t. KJ has a good steal rate and an exceptional block rate that hasn’t been seen from a wing prospect since Dominic McGuire blocked 10.1% of opponent two point attempts for Fresno State as a junior in 2006-2007 (for inquiring minds: McGuire couldn’t stick as an NBA player due to lack of shooting ability). Hood needs to significantly improve his defensive fundamentals and awareness to offer a positive return on a 1st round pick, as he is nowhere near ready to play defense in the NBA and does not have high upside on that end with mediocre tools and questionable acumen.

In terms of overall offense, Hood has been better thus far but it is too soon for a meaningful comparison since Clemson has yet to play most of the tough defensive teams on its schedule. McDaniels did have his two highest scoring outputs vs two of Clemson’s toughest matchups vs Duke and at Arkansas and did so with excellent efficiency (in sum 51 pts on 32 FGA 16 FTA 2 TOV). His future NBA team will not rely on him to create and score nearly as much as Clemson does, so he has the benefit of trimming some of the fat to his offensive game and focusing more of his energy on defense.

For those who are unfamiliar with each player’s respective pro stock, it may surprise you to discover that Hood is rated drastically higher (13th DX, 12th ESPN) than McDaniels (57th DX, not in ESPN’s top 100). This is largely because Hood plays for a higher profile program and there is a bias toward offensive performance, as defensive discrepancies are not readily apparent to the casual observer. With a closer look, there is strong evidence that they belong in the same class of prospect, and I currently believe that McDaniels is superior (this could change as information is gained over the course of ACC play).  Hood belongs in the 1st round but is overrated as a lottery pick as his offense is not elite enough to make his defense tolerable at such a high draft slot.  KJ has a good shot of elevating his stock into the 1st round should he choose to declare, and with a strong enough performance in conference play he may even enter lottery discussion.