McDaniels a Bright Light in Dark Minnesota Tunnel


Fans are rarely excited to watch a team with the NBA’s worst record.

However, such is the case with the Minnesota Timberwolves and their young roster filled with players working to solidify roles. In rookie Jaden McDaniels‘ world, the avenue he chose has much promise and steady improvement.

There’s no doubt the hype surrounding the Timberwolves focused on Anthony Edwards at the beginning of this season. After all, he is the No. 1 pick. Only, the Wolves’ late first-rounder in McDaniels has proven to be equally exciting when given his chances.

Two-Way Potential

After missing six of Minnesota’s first eleven games, McDaniels took advantage of the team’s need for production at power forward. The former Washington Husky notched his first career start against the Pacers last week and saw a steady increase in minutes with every game.

When on the floor, the 6’9″ competitor showed he could handle himself on offense and more so defensively. McDaniels is averaging just over one block per game, making great use of his size and wingspan. What makes McDaniels more intriguing is the noticeable improvements to his decision-making.

Taking quality shots is part of his game. The payoff is an impressive 15/38 on corner 3s, most on catch-and-shoot opportunities. He can become a vital two-way player for Minnesota.

As a result of their incredible trade parade last year, the Timberwolves acquired a handful of notable players in D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez. Only these players add to the mass of one-way contributors Minnesota worked to develop.

Compared to teammates Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver, who have been struggling with health and consistency on both ends, McDaniels poses as a two-way prospect. The physicals are apparent and necessary in McDaniels’ success, but the work performed off the court shined through. If the rookie can continue down this fortuitous path, then the Wolves may find themselves with the steal of the draft.

Defensive Prowess

Not enough can be said about Jaden McDaniels and his effort on defense. In his starling NBA career, he impressed with his skill and smarts around the perimeter and paint, causing problems for opposing bigs who mistake him for an easy target. The Timberwolves have been starved when it comes to defensive talent.

Having suffered frequent blowouts and broken-down assignments over recent years, McDaniels has provided a reprieve. Though this young forward may not be able to go toe-to-toe with the league’s premier bigs, his versatility is evident. McDaniels can take on both front and backcourt opposition, wreaking havoc on plays that come his way.

The Wolves are simply better when Jaden is on the floor. Most recently, McDaniels’ defense against Pascal Siakam primed the team for a competitive bout with the 2019 champion Toronto Raptors. McDaniels finished with a polished 75 defensive rating, one of the best in his early career.

This excellence comes just after his first start, where he delivered three blocks and earned his third-highest game score of the season (7.8). There’s a real belief that McDaniels can become a stout defensive player in this league. With experience and some time in the weight room to put on mass, he’ll get his chance to prove it.

What is to Come

McDaniels is a young, raw product coming out of college. He leads his position group in fouls per game and needs to improve offensively around the rim. However, he’s embracing the three-and-D role for the Timberwolves, which will be a pleasant constant during their transition to coach Chris Finch’s tenure. The rookie mistakes will continue to cause concern, as they always do. Still, he is making amendments to his game and is making splash plays with increasing frequency. McDaniels also made his first appearance in the NBA’s Kia Rookie Ladder, landing at number 5en among his peers.

With Ryan Saunders out as head coach, it’ll be exciting to see McDaniels solidify himself in the rotation. Finch knows he has a young roster at his fingertips and two outstanding rookies. Now, their development is in his hands, and we get the pleasure of watching them prosper.

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