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):
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:
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.
Duke Lane said:
Good argument but you’re off a bit. KJ McDaniels is the better defender and Rodney Hood the better scorer at this stage in their career. One head to head match-up where one of the two had the game of his career and the other, not so much, is not enough to convince people, especially experts, otherwise.
Both players are pros with bright futures but Hood is the better player and the better prospect. The similarities are not so cut and dry. Hood is a far better ball handler and shot creator than you’re giving him credit for. He’s shown the ability to score anyway he chooses all year long and against top level competition. KJ is a very good athlete who will be a good defender on the next level but he will not be able to create or make shots as effectively and efficiently as Hood. This is why Hood will be a top ten pick this year and why KJ won’t.
Also, as you look closer at the footage and examine the help coming from the front lines of each team, you will see that one player was met at the rim by 6’10 250 and the other by 6’9 200. KJ did an excellent job at containing Hood but please don’t overlook the fact that Clemson over-helped when Hood had the ball. McDaniels did not ‘completely take away Hood’s ability to drive’. That is laughable. Clemson made a concerted effort to keep Hood out of the paint which should further prove that hes gotten there every game at will. In contrast, Duke’s second line off defense is significantly smaller than Clemson’s which explains why an athlete like KJ can be successful against Duke’s struggling defense. No such adjustments were made for KJ. Hood also played a ton of minutes at the 4 that game which left smaller defenders like Sulaimon and and Thornton on McDaniels. McDaniels took advantage of this and put his already impressive mid-range game on display.
In conclusion, a few possessions throughout the course of a game is not a large enough sample size to draw from. Hood was projected to be a top 10 pick after his sophomore year at Mississippi State so your argument that he’s projected lottery only because he plays at Duke is flawed. Rodney Hood is a 6’8 shooting guard at the next level who can create his own shot, excels in catch and shoot situations, and has a great mid-range game. He needs to be more consistent defensively and needs to get a bit stronger. KJ McDaniels is a 6’6 small forward at the next level that has elite athleticism, a good defender, and has a good looking midrange shoot. He needs to improve his ballhanding and his shot from deep.
Both are good ACC players but one is a dime a dozen in the NBA (McDaniels) and the other is not (Hood).
This is a thoughtful post and you are right that this one game is far too small of a sample to make any definitive determination. I should note that I rated KJ similarly to Hood entering the game, and my overall assessment is not based solely on this one performance.
Your point about the help defense is well taken, but what struck me was how well KJ stayed in front of Hood when they were isolated on one another which was not true in the converse. Hood gets blown by quite a bit (in other matchups as well as this one) and it puts a major damper on his draft stock. On top of superior tools, KJ also appears to have an edge in defensive focus + effort which is what I was hoping to highlight.
This may be KJ’s signature game, but he has been having a great season and it reflects in his team’s performance, as Clemson has significantly overperformed expectations thus far. Hood is also having a great season, but his team is struggling to stay in the top 25 in spite of being loaded with talent and having an all-time great coach because their defense has been so bad. Part of the defensive woes are due to team construction with no true rim protector, but Hood’s perimeter defense has been a major part of the problem as well.
Also Hood is not going to be able to play SG in the NBA, he doesn’t have the quicks to stay in front of NBA SG’s. McDaniels on the other hand may have the potential to guard both SG’s and SF’s, and the positional versatility is a nice bonus to his stock.
I think the piece missing from this analysis is how they fit into NBA offenses. Hood isn’t just the better offensive player, he’s the player whose type of offense translates better to fill an NBA need. Neither of these guys projects to be a primary option in an NBA offense. So which one is more valuable as a complimentary piece? I think Hood’s elite outside shot is more more valuable off the ball on offense than McDaniels, who uses a variety of methods that generally don’t translate as well to the NBA. McDaniels is not a great shooter and I don’t see anything in his offensive repertoire that makes him as valuable as Hood working in an off-the-ball role.
That said, I think you are correct that the gap between them is too large. But I’m not sure I agree that McDaniels is a superior prospect overall. Hood is markedly superior on offense and translates better as well, and I think it makes up for his defensive shortcomings.
I agree, Hood fits into an NBA offense far better. He is a terrific complementary piece, and McDaniels needs to overcome questions about his shooting ability and at least make corner 3’s at a respectable rate to be a serviceable offensive piece.
My concern with Hood is that he will continue to have lapses on defense and will negate the value he brings offensively on defense. If he continues to be a sieve, it will be difficult for his offensive goodness to outweigh his defensive badness without being an offensive centerpiece. I would be much higher on his stock if he projected to be average defensively as a pro.
And like I said they are in a similar class and I’m not certain I will still rate KJ higher come draft time, so I don’t fault you for preferring Hood. We’ll get a better glimpse of how for real KJ is offensively with Clemson’s upcoming schedule, 4 of their next 5 games are @Pitt, @UNC, @FSU, and @Cuse which is a murderer’s row of road games. All top 25 defensive teams according to KenPom.
I enjoyed this post and have become a bit enchanted with KJ since watching his DX profile (I haven’t seen any Clemson games). I was wondering if you had any thoughts post January that you would be willing to share? KJ’s full season FT% did dip but only to 85% and he looks to have a real promise on the offensive end – solid post ups, drives, and, at least to me, his outside shot mechanic looks really fluid. Frankly, and this is one amongst many reasons I am not a GM, I like his two-way potential better than I like Wiggins, particularly given where each will be picked in the draft.
I think it’s definitely a reasonable disposition to like KJ more than Wiggins. I feel that KJ is a fave to be a better NBA player.
The matter than complicates Wiggins is that he has a level of theoretical upside that KJ lacks. I doubt he achieves it given how far away he currently is skill-wise, but it can’t be 100% ignored.
I don’t have any new thoughts except KJ continued to be as good as I hoped he would be, and I think he cemented himself as an obvious lotto value. If he can become a reliable 3 point shooter in the NBA, then he’s going to be a useful player. And if he develops better than expected offensively he could easily become all-star caliber given his defensive aptitude. There just isn’t a ton to dislike about KJ and I suspect he will creep up draft boards as the draft approaches.
Sorry . . . just saw your BB and that you have KJ at 10. Unless you want to be more verbose about KJ, that sums up your current views quite well, particularly vis-à-vis the above comparison with Hood.
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