Timberwolves

Does Jaden McDaniels Deserve All-Rookie Honors?

Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson (USA TODAY Sports)

Jaden McDaniels has been balling out, but what does he need to do to attain the illustrious Second-Team All-Rookie honors? Let’s find out:

Currently, the positionless All-Rookie teams have four players locked in given no further injury:

In the mix:

This means that there are tons of spots absolutely up for grabs, and McDaniels has as good of a shot as any of the guys on the cusp at making it. I’ve broken the selection process up into three major elements to rookie voting: sample size/quality (minutes and starts), box score (points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks) and impact (advanced stats, eye test). For the sake of this article, let’s say that if Jaden can pass two of them, then he deserves one of the All-Rookie Team spots.

Sample Size/Quality

Overall, McDaniels has played the 10th-most minutes of any rookie. That puts him just behind Bane, who was starting while Grayson Allen was injured. Yes, Allen is the regular starting shooting guard for a Memphis Grizzlies this year that deeply misses Jaren Jackson Jr.

Given that McDaniels starts for the rest of the year, he should be able to pass Bane and Avdija and easily take the eighth spot. He’ll also be racking up starts, guarding the best player on any opposing team 2-4. I give this a pass with flying colors.

Sample Size/Quality: Pass

Box Score

Jaden “McDenials” currently sits eighth in steals + blocks or “stocks” overall for this year’s rookie class. He’s currently 16th in points per game and rebounds per game and 27th in assists per game. As with the previous section, all of these numbers should improve now that it looks as though Jaden will play 30-plus minutes per game instead of the 21.6 he has averaged thus far this season.

If you extrapolate his minutes up to 26 per game, which is where I would project his minutes per game to be by the end of the season, he’ll be averaging 7.7 pts, 4.2 reb, 1.3 ast and 1.8 stl/blk. That would be good for 13th, 11th, 22nd and fifth, respectively, given the current rookie numbers. Since the All-Star Break, he’s shown a glimpse of this jump:

If he can continue to show these numbers or better (ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THAT FG% and 3P%?!!), he can get a pass here too, but for now, it’s a slight fail from me, dawg.

Box Score: Fail, not for long though.

Impact

There is no perfect metric for measuring the impact of an individual basketball player. Most metrics, especially defensive metrics, heavily rely on teammate performance as well. Offensively, low-usage players are also heavily reliant on the efficiency of the best offensive players as well. For both of these reasons, McDaniels has struggled with his advanced metrics. Blowout losses have destroyed his win shares, VORP and BPM, but since the Wolves have become competitive, he’s been quickly climbing back.

In terms of box plus/minus, Jaden is just outside of the top 10, currently sitting in 11th amongst rookies that have played 500 minutes or more:

Many of these players ahead of Jaden in BPM clearly benefit from playing on playoff or fringe playoff teams, so I decided to look further into some numbers. McDaniels’ raw accumulated plus/minus is minus-20 over the 41 games he’s played, and given that the Timberwolves point differential currently sits at minus-7.8, that means that they are much better when McDaniels plays. According to Cleaning the Glass, Minnesota scores 8.3 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, which puts him in the 88th percentile. That is good for second (to Karl-Anthony Towns) on the Wolves by a considerable margin. Here are the on/off stats for all rookies who have played 500 minutes:

Now this is what we like to see.

The eye-test is where Jaden truly shines. He blocked James Harden four times on Monday:

He also made every bucket difficult for Julius Randle and made doubling him mostly unnecessary. This is important because Randle shines at making the correct read when he’s doubled. Notice how the passing lanes aren’t there, forcing Randle to stop the ball and isolate:

The tape speaks for itself. Big thanks to Timberwolves Talk (@Threesley) on Twitter as always. Harden and Randle may have had good games, but Jaden’s ability to defend without needing much help defense prevented the role players from getting easy looks. If you need some more McDaniels copium (tape-ium?), make sure to read the article Chelanga Langason wrote earlier this week.

Other rookies like Williams and Okoro may have also drawn similar All-Star assignments throughout the year, but Devin Booker just poured in a season-high 45 points against P-Willy on Wednesday, and I watched LeBron James scorch Okoro for 46 in January. I don’t know how many of those points came while the rookies were on those guys — most of Harden’s 38-point triple-double on Monday felt like it came off switches — but clearly, it’s difficult for any rookie to guard the best players.

Impact: Pass

McDaniels has all of the stats, tape, and quality playing time to earn a spot on the All-Rookie Team. The only thing he needs now is the attention. Let’s make this happen, Wolves fans! The only question is, should he be Second or First Team?

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