Jaden McDaniels, SF, Washington
Weight: 200 lbs
Age: 20 (9/29/2000)
Jaden McDaniels College Stats
Athleticism and Length
It’s going to see interesting to watch how McDaniels is able to perform in the testing portion of the pre-draft process because he should be one of the better athletes in the bunch, especially for his size. In the modern NBA, wings with length are in high demand, and, with the ability to defend multiple positions, McDaniels fits right in. He’s also able to rise up and get his shot off over his defender’s thanks to his length.
Take this with a grain of salt when I say ball handling. He’s not dribbling like Kevin Durant at 6’9,” but he does dribble very well for his size. At Washington, his team would often outlet the ball to him and allow him to lead the transition to the other end. He had multiple instances where he left defenders grasping for air on the outside, but he also showed some finesse in the post.
McDaniels doesn’t crash the rim with just raw speed, but he shows some finesse when he gets into the air. When McDaniels goes up, he shows the ability to float and adjust his shot until he gets a clear look at the rim. That’s not something that every player has, and he’s already showing a strong ability in that area.
This is where McDaniels seems tailor-made for this roster. His favorite shot is a pull-up jumper from the midrange. Because of his size, he can get his shot off, and he models after Michael Porter Jr. in that way. He wouldn’t be a great fit with the projected starters because he isn’t an outstanding 3-point shooter, but he would bring a good scoring punch off the bench.
His weight is going to be a problem. There’s no way around that. He’s put on about 15 pounds since he got on campus, but he’ll need to put on some more weight. He looks very long and lanky, but he’s got a relatively thin frame. His length allows him to guard most small forwards, but he could struggle against thicker wings like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.
High-Level perimeter shooting
McDaniels is not a horrible shooter from 3-point range, but he needs to improve in that area. His shot from long range is super long, and it’s going to get blocked because it starts really low despite his high release. If he can be a consistent shooter from outside, that’s all you need from him. He doesn’t have to shoot over 40 percent, but he needs to be in at least the mid-30s.
McDaniels may be a good ball-handler, but he has got to get better at taking care of the ball. He had just 65 assists last year despite a usage rate of over 25 percent, and he had 100 turnovers to go with it. It’s unlikely they would expect to be a primary ball-handler, but he still needs to improve that aspect of his game next year.
Projected Draft Range: Late first, early second
Denver Stiffs Big Board: 37th overall
NBA Comparison: Skinny Jonathan Isaac
Why McDaniels makes sense for Denver
McDaniels something that you can never have too much of. He is a wing defender with decent chops on the offensive end of the floor. He’s not going to be a primary scorer for this roster, and they don’t need him to be that with MPJ, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic in the fold. They need him to be a versatile defender that can lock up an opposing wing.
McDaniels brings something else to this roster. He brings depth at an important spot that they don’t have much of. He’s a small-ball four, and he can play some at small forward. They have plenty of guards, and Bol Bol is their backup center. Their wing rotation is their most shallow position, and that became painfully obvious in the playoffs with the absence of Will Barton.
Why McDaniels doesn’t make sense for Denver
If they truly believe that MPJ is the future at the small forward position, McDaniels doesn’t have a starting spot on this roster in the near future. Jerami Grant is almost a guarantee to be re-signed by this team, and, if that were to happen, Jaden would be locked to the bench for at least the next four years. If you’re spending a first-round pick, you’re hoping that player can become a starter for you.
Additionally, they’d also have to draft him about 10 spots earlier than he’s currently projected to go. While the Nuggets could truly look at him as the best player on the board, there could be plenty of players ahead of him at that spot. Don’t let good players stop you from taking great players.
Denver’s offseason is going to be determined by the outcome of one thing. That’s the contract negotiation of Grant. If Grant comes back, their pick at 22 will be explicitly a depth player until that deal runs out. McDaniels is a talented player, and, if he’s truly the apple of their eye, they could look to trade back into the early second or late first to get him.
McDaniels would bring depth to this roster at a spot that they don’t have much of, and he would be a cheap option for a roster that has a lot of expensive pieces on it. He doesn’t bring much in the outside shooting department, and that hurts his fit with players like Murray and Jokic, who need spacing to be fully effective. I ultimately think he goes much later, and the Nuggets go with another option at 22.