By Michael McCarthy
Don’t look now but Sixers 6-6 swingman K. J. McDaniels is making a case for NBA rookie of the year.
McDaniels blocked a dunk attempt from Warriors forward David Lee during the Warriors’ 126-86 win on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.
With less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Golden State guard Stephen Curry dished the ball to Lee near the top of the key.
Lee flipped it back to Curry as he ran past and dribbled into the lane. Nearing the baseline, Curry whipped a behind-the-back pass to Lee, who caught the ball, set his feet and rose for a two-handed dunk. Positioned near the hoop,McDaniels leapt and extended his right arm to deny Lee before he could flush the ball.
McDaniels, a second-round pick out of Clemson, has gained widespread renown for his athleticism and, in particular, his shot-blocking prowess despite playing for one of the worst teams in the NBA.
On Tuesday, McDaniels scored seven points, grabbed two rebounds, dished out two assists and recorded two steals in the loss that dropped the Sixers to 4-26, good for last place in the Eastern Conference. Power forward Marreese Speights scored a game-high 23 points for the the West-leading Warriors, which improved to 25-5.
Over 28 games this season, McDaniels has averaged 9.4 points on 41 percent shooting with 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists. The 21-year-old has also recorded an average of 1.6 blocks per game, 10th most in the league and a higher number than any player his height or shorter, according to statistics compiled by NBA.com.