Jaden McDaniels Is House Money

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Swinger (USA TODAY Sports)

Jamal Crawford recently joined Malika Andrews on her ESPN show, NBA Today, after his pro-am tournament in Seattle. Andrews asked the former Minnesota Timberwolves sixth-man, who played 21 seasons in the league, who stood out at TheCrawsOver.

His answer? Jaden McDaniels.

“Once his offense is unlocked, you’re looking at someone who’s so fluid, 6’9”, can make plays, very smooth,” Crawford said of McDaniels, adding that he’s had to focus on defense to stay on the court. “[Jaden] doesn’t get talked about enough, but he’s gonna be a great, great player for years to come.”

Crawford has mentored many Seattle-area players, including former Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine, so it’s only natural that he’d mention McDaniels. The Wolves drafted McDaniels with the 28th pick in 2020 after a tumultuous year at the University of Washington. They took a flier on a player who racked up technical fouls at an astounding rate in college. The mercurial forward had baffled scouts who pegged him as an NBA star coming out of Federal Way High School in Washington.

McDaniels became a steal in his rookie year, though. He played in 63 games, made 27 starts, and shot 36.4% from three. Most importantly, McDaniels was more disciplined on the court. Last year, he only shot 31.7% from three, and he still needs to clean up his game. But he raised his points per game average from 9.2 to 6.8 and continues to be a defensive contributor. McDaniels has become a valuable 3-and-D player for the Wolves.

Members of the national media scoffed when Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reported that Utah Jazz president Danny Ainge wanted  Tim Connelly to include McDaniels in the Rudy Gobert trade. Connelly added extra picks to the deal to retain McDaniels. But people who don’t watch the Wolves every day may not see his value. He became Minnesota’s fourth star last year. He’s a quiet, steadying force on a team with a movie star, an emotional big, and a misunderstood guard.

Still, even the biggest McDaniels stans had to be caught off-guard when the lanky wing dropped 52 points at Crawford’s pro-am. McDaniels has shown flashes of offensive potential, but he usually scored from outside and focused on defense. Of course, we shouldn’t read too much into pro-am tournaments, but it was fun to see this kind of offense from McDaniels. Crawford wasn’t hyping McDaniels solely because he’s from the Seattle area. The guy has some untapped potential.

We don’t know how many picks Connelly had to include in the Gobert deal to retain McDaniels, but we should still consider anything McDaniels adds offensively as a bonus. He’s a late first-rounder who’s a vital part of the mix. If he was the fourth star last year, he’s their fifth-best player this year. Anthony Edwards has to be Minnesota’s best player if they’re going to become bona fide contenders. Sharpshooting big man Karl-Anthony Towns is his perfect wingman. Connelly traded for Gobert to cover up Towns’ defensive shortcomings while simultaneously bringing out the best in his BFF, D’Angelo Russell.

McDaniels won’t drive winning like Edwards. He can’t shoot like Towns or be the foundation of the defense like Gobert. Russell is still a more talented offensive player. But McDaniels is the prototypical player to complement Minnesota’s core. He shoots well enough from the outside to keep defenses honest, and he’s rangy and defensively talented enough to keep opposing players from trying to climb the Stifle Tower. The Wolves need as many players in the mold of McDaniels or Taurean Prince as they can fit on the roster. It’s the only way they will get the most out of a roster with three max players and Edwards, who will eventually become one.

There’s nothing loud about McDaniels. He goes about his business on the court and doesn’t say much off of it. He can’t blow the roof of the Target Center like Edwards does with his dunks. He’s not as outspoken as Towns and doesn’t dress like Russell. But he caught people’s attention when he dropped 50-plus points in front of his peers in Seattle. McDaniels isn’t into self-promotion, so Crawford said it for him. He’s the real deal, and anything Minnesota gets from him next year is house money.

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Photo Credit: Jeffrey Swinger (USA TODAY Sports)

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