McDaniels Deserves All-Defense Decoration


The 2020 NBA Draft gave the Minnesota Timberwolves a franchise star in Anthony Edwards.

The same draft produced another key piece of the Timberwolves’ core identity.

That piece is Jaden McDaniels. He has been overlooked and underrated for some time, but basketball fans everywhere have started to take notice.

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Career Year in Year 3?

Coming into the 2022-2023 NBA season, McDaniels was averaging 9.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.8 blocks over 25.8 minutes per game.

Appearing in 77 of the T-Wolves’ 80 games this season, the 6’9 forward has posted 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per contest. While adding 1.0 blocks and 0.9 steals in 30.8 minutes per game to his statline, McDaniels is also shooting a career-high 39.2% from three, up 7.5% from last season (31.7%).

This season, the former Washington Husky has an eFG% of 58.8%. Adding a TS% of 60.9% on a usage rate of only 15.9% shows just how impressive McDaniels’ year-three leap has been.

Making an appearance in 210 career games. the 22-year-old has scored five or more field goals in 74 games. The Timberwolves are an astounding 46-28 when this happens. Maybe more impressive than that is that the Wolves are 27-13 when he does it this season.

This means that when McDaniels is involved offensively — and makes five or more baskets a game — the Timberwolves are twice as likely to win the game.

On- and Off-Ball Versatility.

McDaniels can guard every position. As of April 6th, he spent:

  • 10% of his time guarding the opposing center.
  • 17% of his time guarding the opposing power forward.
  • 19% of his time guarding the opposing small forward.
  • 27% of his time guarding the opposing point guard.
  • 28% of his time guarding the opposing shooting guard.

He’s facing the league’s toughest matchups and still manages to hold opposing players to 32% shooting in isolation, per BBall Index as of Feb. 22. He does all of this while maintaining a top-five spot of weak-side rim protectors.

McDaniels navigates ball screens quickly, almost in a breeze. This allows him to stay with his man and gives him the option to cover the big man on a roll for a short time. Lastly, it gives him the ability to disrupt passing lanes by getting into position to guard on ball.

McDaniels’ Late-Game Defense

A late-game defensive scheme from Edwards and McDaniels resulted in a Timberwolves victory on February 13th this season. Dallas Mavericks All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic ultimately turned the ball over.

Edwards’ comments after the game? “This is what me and Jaden are out here for. Put us on the best two players and see what we do.”

“Ant said play it out so I had no problem with that. We all good defenders. I feel like it was a pride thing, not needing to foul. Just try to get the stop.” said McDaniels when asked about the game’s ending.

Safe to say that game gave the national media something to talk about— even if it was mostly about the Mavs trying to find an identity post trade deadline.

The tweet below from BBall Index shows just how much McDaniels’ defense has grown year to year. Seeing this growth placed on a chart helps put into perspective how valuable McDaniels is. It also makes the end of that Dallas game more impressive when you see where he was ranked a short year ago.

They got KD – We got Jaden McDaniels.

McDaniels’ teammate Anthony Edwards made a splash over the All-Star break. While doing an interview with Sirius XM Radio, Edwards stated “They got KD, but we got Jaden McDaniels.” and “you know we here for it man, we’re young.”

Edwards has been one of McDaniels’ biggest supporters, often crediting Jaden for his contributions in interviews, and even doubling down in his decision to pass to Jaden wide open in the corner for a last-second shot to tie or win games.

Confidence is Key – Jaden is feeling Himself.

Let’s not forget his confidence has skyrocketed. He’s made it known he believes he is one of the best defenders in the league. Jaden told Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, “I’ll probably just rather lock someone up. I know I’m going to make shots throughout the game, but stopping someone else from scoring when that’s what they like to do, I like messing peoples’ night up.”

McDaniels gets National Attention.

In an interview with Shams Charania, McDaniels opened up on how he views himself. “I feel like I did a great job on Jamal Murray. During a game, I had blocked like 3 or 4 of his jumpers. He gave me a comment, ‘Bro you gotta stop blocking my jumpers.’ Either him or the first time we played Memphis against Ja [Morant]. I think I did a great job with the scout and just making it hard for him.”

Jaden on the possibility of making one of the NBA’s All-Defensive teams: “I feel like I should be on there, and if I’m not…I don’t know who does the votes, they must be crazy.”

“We were making goals before training camp. Be Defensive Player of the Year or make first or second-team All-Defensive. I feel like I’m doing good at what I said, keeping my word.” McDaniels added.

McDaniels and his Case for All-Defense

As shown on the table above, McDaniels ranks in the 98th percentile among players defending high-usage players. As an elite perimeter & weak-side rim defender, McDaniels is holding his opponents to an eFG% that is -7.3 percent lower than expected at the rim. Since his assignment is often guarding opposing teams’ best players, this means McDaniels is affecting the shot quality of NBA superstars at an elite rate.

A prime example of this is just last week. Phoenix Suns’ forward Kevin Durant went 5-of-18 from the field for only 16 points against McDaniels.

*This was Durant’s first game back after an ankle injury that sidelined him for 10 games, but still.

Yes, there might have been some rust that Durant needed to shake off. But being guarded by McDaniels didn’t make his first game back an easy one at all. KD ended up missing his first six shots while being guarded by McDaniels.

In a recent podcast episode, four-time All-Defensive player Paul George raved about McDaniels.

“One of the guys that are ultra-talented, that isn’t probably on everybody’s radar, is Jaden McDaniels in Minnesota. He got game. Great defender, quick feet, good hands.” George said.

Putting it all Together.

Whether you are a fan of his offense or defense, one thing is for certain— you agree Jaden McDaniels is a special type of player.

No matter if he’s guarding the likes of De’Aaron Fox on the perimeter or rushing in to block an Anthony Davis layup attempt at the rim. You know he will do whatever it takes to give the effort — and sometimes even the extra effort — to make the right play for himself, and his team.

McDaniels never gets a night off. He’s guarding the NBA’s elite, every night. He has obviously taken the “year-three leap.” Now it’s time for fans, the media and the NBA to recognize his impressive performance, and give him the flowers he deserves.

Those flowers should be in the form of an All-NBA defensive-team nomination.

NBA Jam Timberwolves Towns And Edwards

Boomshakalaka! Homage’s latest installment of NBA Jam brings you Minnesota Timberwolves duo Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards in classic arcade style. Drop a quarter in the slot and get ready for throwback vibes.

About Sabrina Hiller

Sabrina Hiller is a Minnesota Native who currently calls the Twin Cities home. Sabrina has previously worked with the Football, Men's, & Women's Basketball teams while attending Bemidji State University. She spends her days working at a Twin Cities nonprofit as a Program Manager, she spends her nights watching Minnesota Sports, and supporting as often as she can.

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