KJ McDaniels Will Declare for 2014 NBA Draft

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2014

Mar 2, 2014; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers forward K.J. McDaniels (32) during the second half against the Maryland Terrapins at J.C. Littlejohn Coliseum. Tigers won 77-73. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

After a breakout campaign in 2013-14, Clemson swingman K.J. McDaniels has decided to enter the NBA draft, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:

Clemson later confirmed the news in a release on the team website:

"I'm thankful for the opportunity these past three seasons to grow as a player and person at Clemson," McDaniels said. "None of this would have been possible without the guidance and support of my coaches, teammates and family. This was not an easy decision, but I am excited to take the next step toward fulfilling my lifelong dream of playing in the NBA."

The expectations for McDaniels were modest entering the season after he averaged just 11 points per game in 2012-13. McDaniels boosted his scoring average all the way up to 17 points per contest, though, and he added seven rebounds, one three-pointer made and nearly three blocks per tilt as well.

McDaniels looks to be one of the most versatile players in the 2014 NBA draft class, but his decision to enter the draft still comes as somewhat of a surprise.

This year's draft is stacked with elite talent such as Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart and more. It's difficult to imagine McDaniels cracking the lottery while contending with those players, but he could be an intriguing selection late in the first round.

According to Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell didn't put any pressure on McDaniels to stay in school, and he appreciated everything that McDaniels did for the program.

At the end of the day, it's his decision, his family's decision. He's the one who has to live with it. We just want him to hopefully be prepared that whatever decision he makes that he's successful thereafter. (...) He's given an unbelievable amount to our school and our program over the last three years and I'm really proud of the way he's handled everything this year. Not just playing on the court, but being a new leader, being a marked man, being an All-ACC guy, handling all the outside distractions and extra people trying to get a hold of him.

McDaniels ultimately decided that it wasn't worth risking injury to return to Clemson. Even though he may have been able to play his way into lottery consideration with another great year, it's tough to blame him for going with the sure thing and taking the money.

In fact, entering now could be the best thing for him provided he lands with a good team that is already in contention. Per Michael McNamara of ESPN TrueHoop, McDaniels is a potential sleeper candidate after the dust settles in terms of big-name selections:

McDaniels may be better prepared for the NBA than some of his peers due to the fact that he spent three years in school, and that bodes well for his draft stock.

He is a do-everything player who is capable of playing multiple positions as well, and that certainly appeals to NBA teams.

His success at the next level depends largely upon where he lands, but McDaniels definitely has the potential to outperform his draft position in a major way.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter