White Sox

Daniels' grasp of Notre Dame offense starting to pay off

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Daniels' grasp of Notre Dame offense starting to pay off

BOSTON -- DaVaris Daniels grew up around football, but wasn't trying to model his game off his dad. While Phillip Daniels was racking up 62 sacks over 15 NFL seasons with Seattle, Chicago and Washington, DaVaris grew up watching Isaac Bruce and later, Reggie Wayne.

"I really like his game and the way he plays," Daniels said of the Colts wideout. "I think that's somebody that I would definitely like to be compared to, a guy that I've learned from."

Daniels never considered following in his dad's footsteps as a defensive end -- "I've been a receiver since day one" -- and developed into a star pass-catcher for Vernon Hills High School. A Rivals four-star recruit, Daniels chose Notre Dame over offers from the likes of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tennessee.

Like any highly-touted incoming freshman coming into Notre Dame, Daniels came to South Bend last year expecting to see the field on Saturdays. But by November, it became clear that wasn't going to happen.

"It was very difficult," Daniels said. "Every kid has the dream of coming in and playing right away. I didn't, but in the end it really helped me to get to where I am right now."

Daniels wound up redshirting the 2011 season, and it took him until the final three games of the season to see a benefit in not getting game action.

"Around that time when I realized that (Michael) Floyd's not going to be here next year, the quarterback is going to be up for grabs, everything's going to be a whole lot different, plus you have another four years to prove yourself and do what you do," Daniels explained.

While Daniels didn't play in 2011, he did begin to develop a good relationship with fellow redshirter Everett Golson. The pair teamed up on Notre Dame's scout team last fall, and that rapport was played up as Golson rose to the top of the Irish quarterback pecking order in the spring and summer.

"It's grown definitely over time," Daniels said. "The more time we get to spend with each other in practice, we definitely know where each other's going to be when he releases the ball, he knows when I'm going to be out of my break."

But that relationship didn't translate into big games for Daniels until last week against Pittsburgh. Daniels didn't catch more than four passes in any game before Saturday, when he nabbed seven balls for 86 yards, including a crucial 45-yard catch that set up Notre Dame's game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

If Daniels' production against Pittsburgh was any indication, he's starting to peak with the season winding down.

"He's learning how to play the game," coach Brian Kelly said. "And he's still learning. I'll give you an example -- when he goes and runs his routes, he's pretty difficult to defend. Then when he doesn't think he's getting the ball, you know -- it's one of those things he is learning every week about how to be that elite receiver in the BCS. It requires practice preparation, it requires the attention to detail, all those things, and he's starting to get there."

Kelly wasn't calling Daniels out for taking plays off, but instead noting the learning curve from high school to college. While at Vernon Hills, Daniels could use his athleticism to get open -- "a lot of high school football is like backyard football," he said -- but had to learn how to get open against far more disciplined defenses.

"It was definitely difficult to grasp, because you feel like you're doing right, but you realize in the end you're not open or it's not working the way they want it to work," Daniels said. "It definitely takes a minute to get used to."

Daniels sees route-running as an area in which he still needs improvement, but overall he said the game is slowing down for him. As Notre Dame deals with the pitfalls of being undefeated into mid-November, having a productive pass-catcher in Daniels could make a major difference in keeping Notre Dame's title hopes alive.

"It makes a lot more sense to me," Daniels said. "And it's just -- I don't want to say easier, but it's starting to fill in and come more natural."

Expect the unexpected: A triple play, a Charlie Tilson grand slam and a White Sox win over the Astros

Expect the unexpected: A triple play, a Charlie Tilson grand slam and a White Sox win over the Astros

Expect the unexpected.

After the way the first two nights went for the White Sox during their four-game stay in Houston, the expectations weren't high going up against Gerrit Cole. Cole entered the game as baseball's strikeout leader, with 93 of them in his first 60.2 innings this season. After White Sox hitters struck out a combined 27 times in the games started by Brad Peacock and Justin Verlander, it figured to be more of the same.

But that's not how baseball works.

The White Sox got solo homers from Eloy Jimenez and Jose Abreu for an early lead on Cole, but it was what they did in the field that got the baseball world buzzing. They turned the first triple play of the 2019 season in slick fashion. It was the White Sox first triple play since the 2016 season, when they turned three of them.

Normally, a triple play would be hands down the highlight of the night. But after the Astros pushed three runs across against Ivan Nova in the bottom of the fourth inning, the White Sox staged a stunning comeback against the typically dominant Cole.

They started the sixth with four straight hits, with Yona Moncada's single tying the game and James McCann, with another successful moment in the cleanup spot, doubling in the go-ahead run. Four batters and two outs later, Charlie Tilson, not exactly known for his power, smacked a grand slam, his first career homer, to bust things open.

Tilson became the first White Sox hitter whose first career homer was a grand slam since Danny Richar back in 2007. It's been a very nice stretch for Tilson, who came up from Triple-A Charlotte early this month. He's slashing .304/.339/.393 in 2019, now with one home run.

So by the end of the evening, the White Sox got a triple play, a Tilson grand slam, not one but two Jimenez home runs and a win over the best team in baseball — in Houston, no less, where the White Sox last win came in September 2017. Outside of a mighty positive night from Jimenez, who has two two-homer nights in just 24 games in his career, these might be oddities with little big-picture applications for this rebuilding organization. But a fun, eventful night for the record books is surely welcome.

Mercy.

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Why the Bulls should take Dedric Lawson with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Dedric Lawson with the No. 38 pick

Lawson is a player who has the production and pedigree of a high-value draft pick. But his weaknesses have scared off some who struggle to see what his role would be in an NBA rotation. Time and time again we have seen prospects who dominated the NCAA game, but didn’t have the ability to stick in the league. This is what precisely what has made some overlook Lawson’s stellar numbers over 101 career games.

Strengths:

Lawson is a very effective scorer and when you look at the per 100 possessions numbers, his statistics pop off the page. Over three seasons playing NCAA basketball, Lawson scored 30.8 points per 100 possessions.

He scored his baskets on a variety nice shots from the low post and midrange area, with the ability to stretch his jump shot out to 3-point range should he more repetitions.

Lawson’s go to move at this stage of his development is a jump hook over his left shoulder. But he can finish well from the post with either hand, just preferring to finish with his right. In 2018-19 he converted his FGAs at the rim at a 65.4 percent rate (per Hoop Math), leading to the best offensive rating of his career (117.4 points per 100 possessions).

He keeps defenses off balance by attacking with his faceup game from the mid-post area, where he succeeded in hitting a solid 40.8 percent of his “short midrange FGA” per The Stepien’s shot chart data. The Stepien’s data also had Lawson hitting an impressive 39.1 percent of his 3-point shots that are from NBA 3-point range.

His jump shot form is fine, but he will need to work on quickening up his release at the next level. Fortunately, film from as recent as the NBA Combine suggest that he is making strides when it comes to becoming a legit NBA stretch-4.

The great thing about Lawson’s game--specifically when you are projecting him on to the Bulls--is that while he did maintain a high usage rate and high FGA per game numbers throughout his career, his amazing activity as an offensive rebounder makes him a threat even when plays aren’t run for him.

Lawson snatched down 307 offensive rebounds over his three years in college, translating to 3.0 offensive rebounds per game for his career. Just as important as snagging those boards is converting them into quick baskets and Lawson does just that. He converts rebound putback FGAs at an absurdly efficient rate of 81.8 percent per Hoop-Math.com. Boylen likes his bigs to exude toughness and hit the glass, and while Lawson may not have the strength of some NBA 4s, but he is always willing to mix it up in the paint going for contested rebounds.

He brings that same tough mentality when he is attacking the basket, whether it be off the dribble, in the post or in transition, where his length makes him devastating. Lawson shot 65.4 percent on FGAs at the rim and was the driving force behind a Kansas Jayhawks offense that scored 113.9 points per 100 possessions, good for 27th in the nation (via Ken Pom).

Despite lacking a clear-cut position in the NBA, Lawson figures to be a solid defender with the potential to develop into a great defender. It will just take the right coach to get him to play high-intensity defense on a consistent basis.

With a 7-foot-2-inch wingspan, the second longest hands at the NBA Combine and a near 9-foot standing reach, Lawson has all the tools needed to be a very mobile rim protector. He averaged 1.6 blocks per game for his career and should be able to bring that shot-blocking prowess with him to the league.

In lineups with Lauri Markkanen, Lawson could focus on the tougher matchup, theoretically freeing up more energy for Markkanen to use on offense. In lineups with Wendell Carter or Otto Porter as the other big on the floor, Lawson would be able to get his scoring going while likely helping Boylen form some of his best defensive lineups.

Weaknesses:

Lawson has the potential to be a player who can fit into a variety of offensive systems, but his reluctance to pass from the post could be his undoing. He has been the No. 1 offensive option throughout his career, and the 2018-19 season represented his highest usage rate for a single season at 29.1 percent. But despite 2018-19 being his highest usage rate season, it also represented his worse in terms of total assists.

In only one of his three seasons did he finish with more assists than turnovers and in watching game tape, it appears he will struggle mightily when it comes to making high-level reads in the NBA. It doesn’t take long sifting through games to see Lawson take a heavily contested shot against a throng of opponents. The Big 12 conference provided Lawson with much more competition than he received when playing at Memphis at the start of his career, and he occasionally forced shots while trying to prove he belonged.

He was still an effective scorer despite all this, posting a 57.8 true shooting percentage despite going into “chucker mode” at certain points during games, but being a one-trick pony won’t cut it in the NBA. His impressive finishing in traffic will be much tougher when dealing with NBA length. If his inside scoring game takes a step back, it will put even more pressure on Lawson to develop into a big that can confidently knock down a decently high-volume of 3-pointers.

He doesn’t have top-end speed or burst off the floor, and will likely struggle every night with his matchup until he learns the nuances of NBA defense.

Long-term outlook:

Ultimately, Lawson has a great chance to be the best second round pick in a particularly shallow draft. Rather than being a slight, this means that he is likely to outplay his draft position by a decent amount.

As long as the team drafting him understands the limitations of his game, Dedric Lawson is poised to be a steal in the 2019 NBA Draft.