Height - 6’10
Weight - 200 lbs
Wingspan - 6’11
Jaden McDaniels started the college season as a sure-fire lottery pick. Over the course of a season, his stock has cratered. McDaniels is projected to go in the late first round but honestly I think he could slip down to the second round.
McDaniels has shown real moments of quality during his time in Seattle. McDaniels was a deft finisher around the rim and his deep ball looked fairly pretty promising. At times, he has looked like a definite lottery pick but it is the inconsistency with McDaniels which is worrying to me.
He drifted during games at Washington and there were a few occasions where he seemed to shy away from pressure or sulk during the game. This may be corrected at the NBA level but mental strength and fortitude is highly important for success in the NBA.
There is the possibility that McDaniels realises his potential and becomes a multi-positional forward who can knock down outside shots easily. However, his inconsistency and rawness complicates that best case scenario.
The best aspect of McDaniels’ game was his scoring touch. In his time at Washington, McDaniels was smart around the rim with his finishing. McDaniels rarely tried to do too much and opted for simple, effective finishes. McDaniels showed maturity as he got the job done on each possession.
Scoring looked effortless when McDaniels was in rhythm. His length and body control meant that he was able to skip past defenders easily before laying the ball up. McDaniels looked comfortable with the ball and his ability off the dribble will be a translatabe skill.
A forward who can create his own shot and get to the rim for a finish is valuable in the NBA. This skill gives a coach versatility when it comes to designing an offense. McDaniels would need to get comfortable with the physicality of professional basketball but there is certainly something to build on.
McDaniels’ proficiency from deep was one of the reasons why he was so effective off the dribble. When McDaniels received the ball on the perimeter, defenses had to play him honestly as Jaden could knock down this shot fairly comfortably.
McDaniels shot 33.9% on 4.1 3PA in college. That is a solid return when you consider other indicators such as his free throw shooting. It is often said that free throw percentage in college is an accurate indicator of a player’s ability to stretch the floor in the NBA.
McDaniels shot 76.3% on his free throws in college. That efficiency is enough to suggest that there is potential for McDaniels to improve as a shooter. His efficiency will also improve when McDaniels starts to drop the long two from his shot diet.
McDaniels was able to work out of triple threat situations effectively but he settled for long twos far too much for my liking. McDaniels would create separation off the bounce, take one dribble and then pull up in the non-painted area. That is an inefficient shot when you consider McDaniels’ ability to get to the rim or his ability to shoot the deep ball.
Occasionally, McDaniels would use his footwork to good effect and step back behind the 3-point line for open look but it was too infrequently. With good coaching, you could see McDaniels ironing out this weakness and maximising his ability but that will take a long time to get right.
Jaden McDaniels profiles to be a multi-positional defender in the NBA. McDaniels has a 6’11 wingspan while being 6’10 tall. In addition to his size, McDaniels is surprisingly light on his feet when guarding smaller players. His physical attributes suggest that he could be a useful defender in the NBA.
Over the last few years, we have seen guys like Robert Covington and Jerami Grant excel as lengthy, switchy defenders. Their value has increased in an NBA where teams will run offense to target mismatches. A player who can deal with mismatches effectively is always useful.
McDaniels has the tools but he is very raw as a basketball player. When I have watched film of Washington, McDaniels did not seem to have much natural feel for the game. He did not always make good decisions on defense.
In one of these examples, he stepped out into the passing lane to try and intercept the pass without realising there was an open corner shooter behind him.McDaniels totally lost his man and Gonzaga were able to get an easy basket. McDaniels will need a lot of time on the court to develop his feel for the game.
Moreover, McDaniels has never played in a man to man defensive coverage; Washington only ran zone coverage. In a zone, the big’s main responsibility is to take up space and force the ball to recycle around the perimeter.
The fundamentals of man to man defense are very different. In a man coverage, a player is required to contain his assignment and direct the opposing offense into help defense. McDaniels will be green on these concepts and it will take a while for him to learn how to play man to man defense.
McDaniels’ inconsistency on the court is also a worry. There were times when McDaniels disappeared on the court. He just did not seem engaged with the action and his body language was not that good. He would look nervous during pressure moments of the game.
There were moments at Washington where McDaniels was overawed by the occasion and he let the pressure go to his head. He did not perform at the level which he is capable of. In the NBA, a young player has to be consistent on a nightly basis for them to grow as players. He will not learn anything if he cannot be trusted to play minutes.
McDaniels will need to work on his fixing his issues with his inconsistency as it could seriously impact his career as a NBA player. There will be pressure on his shoulders every single time that McDaniels goes on the road and faces 18,000 hostile fans. He has to learn how to deal with this pressure and play his game.
As a prospect, Jaden McDaniels has a very high ceiling. He could be a very valuable 3&D forward in the NBA if everything works out. It is easy to imagine a fully realised Jaden McDaniels slotting in next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley.
However, concerns about his consistency and readiness are worrying. Oklahoma City will need to invest a lot of time and effort into building his technical base up to the NBA level. The Thunder will also need to address his inconsistency and his skinny frame. There are other players available in this area of the Draft who require less effort and have a similar sort of ceiling.
I would not take McDaniels in the Draft at 25. I would rather have Leandro Bolmaro or Kira Lewis. McDaniels is an interesting project but there are just too many concerns attached to him for him to be a feasible pick for the Thunder.