There are several defensive schemes that an NBA player can utilize to prevent their opponent from scoring. It can be tough to master all or some of the defensive strategies; the thing is, guarding an NBA player one-on-one is not easy, especially for a 19-year-old.
Dyson Daniels is here to break that matrix. The 19-year-old knows what will get him playing on a deep Pelicans roster. “That’s what I’ve done my whole career: play defense. I’m going to bring that every game, every practice,” he told reporters during training camp. “My offense is coming along, but I think the defense will get me on the floor first.”
New Orleans Pelican made it clear that it had always wanted the Australian guard from when Daniels was drafted with the eighth overall pick.
“Dyson was our guy, from the outset,” Pelicans General Manager Trajan Langdon said at the time. “I thought he would be a good fit with our players here. He’s going to grow into a great player in this league.”
Although an ankle injury limited him to about 20 seconds in the team’s third preseason game, Daniel had already recorded 13 deflections through the 54 minutes in the team’s first two contests (by far the most on the team). Dejounte Murray led the NBA last season with four deflections per game as a frame of reference for how absurdly high that number is.
Daniel has been a block-and-steal machine in the preseason, averaging 1.3 blocks and 5.3 steals per 36 minutes. He showed glimpses of his potential during the New Orleans’ preseason game against Chicago, setting up a wide-open 3-pointer with a drive and kick for Willy Hernangomez.
Unlike his fellow Australian Josh Giddey, Daniels is not expected to reach the same heights, given he won’t need to have as prominent a role in the Pelicans’ offense. However, Giddy unleashed praises about Dyson and warned anyone unfamiliar with him ahead of his rookie season.
“For Guys that don’t know about him in the league, they’re going to know about him soon,” Giddey told foxsports.com.au. “Dyson is going to be an NBA player for a long time. He does a lot of things on the basketball court. He’s an elite defender, he runs the point guard position, he’s a great passer, facilitator, guys will love playing with him.”
He added, “I’ve been working with him this past offseason and seeing big improvements from G league year to where he’s now. He can shoot that thing.”
Both Daniels and Giddey have striking similarities in how they approach the game, such as the selfless attitude they share on the offensive end. As Giddey mentioned, Dyson has numerous things that impact winning on a team. “Dyson’s elite on the defensive end. He’s unselfish, and he impacts winning at a high level.” Giddey said.
The Athletic’s Will Guillory told foxports.com.au. that Dyson could play a key role in addressing one “big issue” as they look to improve on last season’s playoffs push.
“He was the one they targeted going into the draft, they were excited to get him, and I think he sits into what they need to balance out the backcourt,” Guillory said. “I think Dyson checks many boxes to complement what they have at the guard position. He’s got the potential to be exactly what this team needs, and I think they’re going to try to bring him along slowly.”
So, what’s the secret behind Dyson’s success at defense?
First of all, Dyson thinks of the game like a veteran. His physique is undeniably a part of the package. He weighed 195 pounds, with a height of 6-7.5 and a 6-10.5 wingspan; this is a great size and length for a guard. He also has the ability and agility to stop on a dime.
“With defense, some of it can be taught. A lot of it is instinct,” veteran teammate Larry Nance Jr. said. “Dyson’s got that instinct. Seeing the trouble he causes, whether it be blocks, steals, or even something to the naked eye you wouldn’t see— just clogging a driving lane for someone on the ball. His knack for defense, his defensive IQ, is already super high.”