In the 2020 NBA draft the Timberwolves came in with two first round picks (pick 1 & pick 17). We all know about Anthony Edwards going 1. But our other first round pick definitely isn’t talked about as much as he could be. We also know the wolves ended up trading James Johnson and that #17 pick for Ricky Rubio and picks 25&28. And with the 28th pick of the 2020 NBA draft, the Timberwolves took Jaden McDaniels. A steal since day 1.
Jaden has been a masterclass defender since he stepped on the pro court. He was the best defensive rookie last season at his peak. But it’s the offense we’ve been waiting on, and we’re starting to see flashes of what he can do.
The wolves have desperately needed offensive help over the last 3 games due to stars like Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell missing games due to Covid. And Jaden has stepped up for the wolves, averaging 17PPG over his last 3 games. He also doubled his assist numbers from 1.5APG to 3.0APG. And went from 5.0 RPG to 6.6 RPG. No doubt this recent stretch is the best offensive stretch we’ve seen from him. And before we really even needed him against the Mavericks before guys like Kat got Covid, he averaged 11.5PPG in those two games.
Jaden was attacking guys like Gobert (3-time DPOTY) and was successfully scoring. So what tends to hold him back? Some might say his weight, as he is very slender, kinda of a Kevin Durant build. But that’s not it because he’s a pretty successful slasher when he attacks the rim (64.5% FG closer than 5 feet). It’s probably due to Jaden’s lack of aggressiveness.
Jaden over the last 3 games has been aggressive, and he’s taking shots for himself, and it’s working. But usually he’s passive, and doesn’t ask for shots enough. Jaden is super capable of being a 10PPG scorer off the bench compared to his 7.7PPG average right now. He’s a capable scorer, he just needs to assert himself on that end.
Jaden is nothing short of a future ALL-NBA defensive player. We all saw what he did to Julius Randle Tuesday night. Randle, an ALLSTAR last year and winner of the most improved player award struggled on Jaden. Jaden was the primary defender on Randle all game and held him to 5/20 shooting, blocking him 4 times (Jaden also blocked another Knicks player once, he had 5 blocks). Even with the insane weight disparity of about 65 pounds, Jaden demolished Randle.
This is nothing new for Jaden, he often takes on the opponents top offensive player, even if they are a guard (unless Beverley is on the court). Jaden has been coming off the bench due to Jarred Vanderbilt’s emergence and perfect fit around the other starters. But his defensive role has stayed. Opponents shoot 41% when guarded by Jaden, and 32% behind the 3-point line.
What makes him so scary for the future?
The scary part about Jaden is that he’s 21 years old, and has tons of room to grow and potential to fill. He’s working on adding weight, he’s added about 15LBS since draft night in 2020, which is awesome. And as defensive talent has surrounded him, he’s gotten better and better. At this point for Jaden it’s about getting better everyday, working on his offensive motor and confidence. Jaden’s potential is sky high.