The New Orleans Pelicans selected Aussie teenager Dyson Daniels with the 8th pick in the 2022 NBA draft with aspirations of him becoming a key piece of their young team that’s already packed with talent.
With a superstar name that will have commentators drooling over alliteration opportunities and a skillset to match, Dyson looks primed to make some highlight reel plays this season. But many saw Daniel’s selection in the upper echelon of this year’s NBA draft as a surprise, given how little was known about him before he burst onto scouts’ radar at the NBA combine.
Dyson’s rapid ascension to the NBA has been boosted by the guard’s playmaking and defensive abilities, as well as his enormous potential, with some scouts claiming he could be the next big thing in the NBA.
With the NBA season right around the corner, here’s five things you didn’t know about Australia’s next basketball star: the boy from Bendigo.
1. Dyson comes from a basketball family.
Dyson’s American father Ricky Daniels played college ball for NC State before making his way across the Pacific Ocean to play professionally in Australia. The senior Daniels’ career with the Bendigo Braves is the stuff of legend. Ricky won two league most valuable player awards while with the team and had his number 23 jersey retired in 2011.
With his father a legend of his hometown’s basketball team, Dyson had a lot to live up to. Dyson also played for the Braves, making his debut at the age of just 16.
Dyson isn’t the only one in his family making big plays on the court. Dyson’s brothers, Dash and Kai, are drawing NBA scouts’ attention with their impressive play. Older brother Kai plays college basketball for Regis University. While younger brother Dash, who continues the Daniels’ fondness for superstar style names, has followed in his father’s footsteps and plays for the Bendigo Braves at just 14-years-old.
2. He took an alternative route to the NBA
Dyson had several offers from prominent colleges in the states and a multitude of interest from Australian teams to make the immediate jump to professional basketball. But Dyson passed them all up. Instead, he opted to become the first Australian to play for the G-League ignite, a team in the NBA’s development league focused on developing young prospects and preparing them on their path to the NBA.
The G-League ignite were established in 2020 as an alternative pathway to the NBA. The team provides experience and an opportunity to get paid for the world’s top young prospects. The Ignite play against professional level talent in the NBA’s minor league association, the G League and offer salaries of up to $500,000 USD.
“I was almost certain on going to the NBL. I was almost certain on it before I got offered to go play on the G League Ignite squad.” Daniels told basketballnews.com.
The move has obviously since paid off. Dyson’s play garnered the attention of NBA scouts and led to him being just the fourth Ignite player to be drafted into the NBA.
3. Dyson was a young footy star
A multi-sport athlete in his childhood, Dyson was once on the path to a promising AFL career. Dyson a member of Victoria’s representative Under-12’s team in 2013, in a squad that featured nine future AFL players.
Dyson credits his experiences playing footy as crucial in developing his basketball skillset.
“I played AFL football growing up, so that is a physical and contact sport,” he told Zero Hanger. “I think that helps me on the basketball court with my physicality and being able to read the game.”
Dyson’s rookie contract with the Pelicans will pay him around $4.4 million AUD per year, far beyond the highest paid players in the AFL. So, it seems Dyson made the right choice in terms of money when picking his sport.
Nine players from Victoria’s 2015 under-12s side were ultimately drafted to an AFL list.— Riley Beveridge (@RileyBev) June 24, 2022
Now, Dyson Daniels lands at the Pelicans with the 8th pick in the NBA Draft. Seen here sitting between Essendon’s Ben Hobbs and Hawthorn’s Josh Ward. @AFLcomau https://t.co/JKLjaAzhHg pic.twitter.com/ocrjr4ndXX
4. He’s a unique player
At 6 foot 8, Dyson is bigger than most NBA guards, but there’s more to his game than his size. Australia has become known for producing oversized guards with outstanding playmaking and defensive abilities, with Ben Simmons, Josh Giddey and now Dyson is the biggest names in a steady stream of Aussie talent.
Daniels described his game to basketballnews.com as “unlike anyone else’s.” The young star doesn’t have anyone he’d compare himself to and no one he models himself after. The result is a skillset the NBA has never seen.
Dyson’s defense is the signature tool in his arsenal, with the ability to lockdown even the best offensive players. As Dyson previously noted, sometimes the best offense is good defense, “That’s how I generate a lot of my offense. I like to think of myself as just ‘smart’ defensively, being able to get steals, being able to guard 1-through-4, some 5.”
Despite his defensive prowess, it’s Dyson’s playmaking ability that’s turned heads in preseason. “I’m a playmaker, I like to make plays off the dribble for my teammates and myself. Get into lanes and use my floaters,” he said.
Being an elite defender will keep you around in the NBA.— Ryan Hammer???? (@ryanhammer09) October 8, 2022
Dyson Daniels is a rookie defending like an All-NBA vet in preseason. Versatility vs all 5 spots, motor, intuition. Huge part of why I ranked Dyson in the top 5 prospects of this class????????pic.twitter.com/tK2yLo3z4r
5. He’s already a regular on the national team
Age is no barrier for Dyson on the international level. He debuted for Australia’s senior national team, the Boomers, last year when he was only 17. He impressed in his debut, an Asia Cup qualification game, leading the over New Zealand with 23 points, 6 steals, 4 assists and 3 rebounds.
Dyson says playing for the Boomers was integral to his development on the path the NBA, “That was really big for me as well. Being able to play for the Boomers in the Asia Cup Qualifiers at such a young age, some people don’t get that opportunity,” Daniels said.
Dyson starred for Australian junior teams before getting the call-up to the senior level. He was a standout at the 2021 under-19 FIBA World Cup and has since cemented his place at the top level.
A slew of young stars have entered the NBA in recent years. Big names such as Ben Simmons, Josh Giddey and Matisse Thybulle have elevated Australia’s reputation on the international stage. While veterans Patty Mills and Joe Ingles have led the national team to highs never reached before. With the addition of another future star in Dyson Daniels, the future is bright for Australian basketball.