On Thursday night, Troy Daniels got his first taste of poetic justice.
With about 25 seconds left, Dragan Bender let loose a 3-pointer at the top of the key. It went off front iron, but T.J. Warren batted it toward the baseline as Greg Monroe ran in from the perimeter and found Daniels all by his lonesome next to Memphis’ bench.
As Monroe found him on the outside as he was stepping out of bounds, Daniels had a good 8-plus feet of space to gather himself and calmly hit the dagger over Marc Gasol’s outstretched arms with 17 seconds left.
“He saw me out of his peripheral vision, but it was a crazy pass," Daniels said. “I’m not used to seeing big men jump out of bounds and save balls like that, but I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
Right place at the right time indeed.
When Devin Booker first went down with his left adductor injury Dec. 5 at Toronto, I expected the Suns to finish 1-9 in a possible 10-game stretch without him. And, wow, have they proved me wrong, albeit not against the top competition out West.
For only the second time this season, Phoenix has won three of their last four games. A lot of that credit can go to the second unit led by Daniels, which is humming along smoothly at the moment.
The first instance was a case of dead coach bounce following Earl Watson’s dismissal winning four of their next five. This one is even more impressive now without Booker, which included Warren’s 40-point explosion in Washington on Nov. 1.
Daniels finished with 14 points on Thursday, including a plus-minus of +7. Also, Daniels — a player who possesses one of the sweetest looking shooting strokes in the league — continues his hot streak from behind the arc finishing with a 50% average.
When looking at how Daniels has started to carry the secondary scoring option behind Warren, check out the last 8 without Booker:
13.9 ppg on 47.1/43.1/100 splits
In that two-week span, Daniels is second on the roster in points per game only behind Warren while also carrying the load from the outside. Without Booker and Davon Reed, Daniels at the moment is the only capable three-point specialist.
Speaking of Booker and Reed, when they return (Booker around Dec. 26 - Dec. 31, Reed around New Years) I would expect interim head coach Jay Triano to experiment with those three shooters on the floor together a ton. Booker at point guard flanked by two above-average perimeter threats would open up spacing for Phoenix, likely the best they would see all season up to this point.
As general manager Ryan McDonough explained at Media Day, though, Daniels has been known league-wide as a certified sniper from beyond the arc.
After being sent from Memphis as a salary dump right before training camp began, Daniels has started to thrive in his role with the second unit alongside Isaiah Canaan, Bender, and Alex Len.
“It had to go up, yeah. We live for moments like this and we work each and every day for moments like this,” Daniels said of hitting the game-winner over his former team. “I just happened to hit the shot”
In the meantime, Daniels has built up some value around the league if McDonough wants to shop him around the deadline. However, as he said on the Burns & Gambo Show earlier this week, Daniels is under contract through the 2018-2019 season, so his shooting could still be an asset to help out in the Valley moving forward.
In Summer League, Reed proved to be a possible 3-and-D weapon utilized immediately, averaging over 13 ppg while displaying defensive tactics Daniels doesn’t have in his arsenal.
Either way, Daniels enacted sweet revenge upon his former team that traded him off to help out their salary books, not on the court.
“It feels great I can tell you that. It feels great,” Daniels said. “I’d rather it be on them than anybody else.”
We agree, Troy, and it piques my curiosity to see how the Suns will utilize him moving forward over the next few months as they try to find the balance of adding more perimeter-oriented threats to a roster depleted of them.