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Kevin “K.J.” McDaniels Jr. was born in Birmingham, Alabama on February 9, 1993. He attended Central Park Christian School in Birmingham and played varsity basketball. ESPN considered him a three-star recruit and he was subsequently listed as the number 35 small forward in the United States in 2011.
K.J. McDaniels decided to attend Clemson University, but did not play a significant amount in the 2011-2012 season. During his freshman season, he averaged 3.9 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. He became a starter for the Clemson Tigers as a sophomore, averaging 10.9 points and 5.0 rebounds during the 2012-2013 season. He finished 2nd overall for blocked shots in the Atlantic Coast Conference with an average of 2.1 per game.
In his junior year, K.J. McDaniels became one of the star players in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He led the conference with 2.8 blocks per game and averaged 17.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. At the end of the regular season, K.J. McDaniels was named to the All-ACC first team and was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He led the Tigers to the postseason 2014 National Invitation Tournament, where the Tigers subsequently made it to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden. During the offseason, K.J. McDaniels declared his intention to forego his senior year of college eligibility and enter the 2014 NBA Draft.
In June 2014, the Philadelphia 76ers chose K.J. McDaniels as the 32nd overall draft pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He joined the 76ers’s Summer League in July 2014 and was named to Philadelphia’s 2014 training camp roster in September 2014. However, K.J. McDaniels did not appear on the first day of fall training after he and his agent expressed issues with the contract offered by Philadelphia. After numerous negotiations, his contract was re-structured. On October 1, 2014, he agreed to a $507,000 one-year, non-guaranteed contract that allowed him to become a free agent in 2015.
During his rookie year, K.J. McDaniels played well as a shooting guard and became one of Philadelphia’s primary players, while earning notoriety for his shot-blocking abilities. In November 2014, he recorded his first NBA career double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds in a season-high, despite a 103-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. K.J. McDaniels went to play a total of 52 games for Philadelphia for the 2014-2015 year, averaging 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game.
In February 2015, K.J. McDaniels was traded to the Houston Rockets for a 2015 second-round pick and for Isaiah Canaan. He was one of 43 players to be traded on the deadline for trading. In the latter part of the 2014-2015 season, K.J. McDaniels played in Houston for a total of 33 minutes. He subsequently missed the Rockets’ postseason playoff run due to a non-displaced fracture in his right elbow that occurred during the Rockets’ regular season finale.
K.J. McDaniels opted to re-sign with the Houston Rockets for a $10 million, three-year contract on July 21, 2015. He reported that he felt good about the deal as it was a substantial payoff for his refusal to sign a long-term contract with Philadelphia after being drafted in 2014.
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