San Antonio Spurs 2019 NBA Draft Prospects: Jalen McDaniels

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 19: Jalen McDaniels #5 of the San Diego State Aztecs takes a foul shot during a first round game of Maui Invitational college basketball game against the Duke Blue Devils at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 19, 2018 in Lahaina Hawaii. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 19: Jalen McDaniels #5 of the San Diego State Aztecs takes a foul shot during a first round game of Maui Invitational college basketball game against the Duke Blue Devils at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 19, 2018 in Lahaina Hawaii. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
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With two first round picks to work with in the 2019 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs may take a look at San Diego State’s Jalen McDaniels.

With the 2019 NBA Draft less than two weeks away, the pressure is on for franchises across the league to identify the key prospects they want to target on June 20. The San Antonio Spurs will be heading into draft night equipped with two first-round picks, making the importance of selecting the right players all the more crucial.

The Spurs could consider Jalen McDaniels, a lanky power forward out of San Diego State, with one of those picks. The 6’10” forward elected to enter the NBA Draft after a solid sophomore campaign. While some analysts are split on their assessment of McDaniels, many believe he’s a legitimate first round talent.

The former Aztec showcased an impressive offensive arsenal during the 2018-19 season, ranking as the second leading scorer (15.9 points) on the SDSU squad. McDaniels also pulled down a team-high 8.9 rebounds and dished out the third-most assists (2.1) per game.

One of McDaniels’ most notable assets is his ball-handling abilities. For a player his size, he’s remarkably comfortable handling the rock and using the dribble-drive to get to his sweet spots and hit jumpers. The combination of his length and shiftiness allows McDaniels to be a matchup nightmare for slower bigs and quicker yet smaller guards and forwards.

Because of his extremely slight build, weighing roughly 192 pounds, McDaniels has found different ways to impose his will on the game. He lacks the strength to back down larger defenders, but McDaniels is crafty enough to use face-up moves to get buckets.

While McDaniels has plenty of bright spots, he’s far from a finished product and is still very raw offensively. He’s a smart operator in the midrange, but isn’t much of a knock down shooter, hitting just 32 percent of his three-pointers. He doesn’t have a specific bankable skill that will set him apart significantly from other prospects in this draft class.

Many of the red flags surrounding McDaniels revolve around his weight. Unfortunately, much of his game is predicated upon compensating for his slender frame. While his offensive creativity is admirable, McDaniels’ lack of girth prevents him from unlocking his full potential.

The issue regarding McDaniel’s weight is much more significant on the defensive side of the ball. During his collegiate career he struggled regularly trying to contain power forwards, frequently getting bullied and knocked around on post-ups. And once he gets to the next level, those problems will be bigger, quite literally.

Obviously, creating a weight training regiment for McDaniels will be imperative for any NBA team that decides to take a chance on him because it’s unlikely that he would be able to stay on the court for long due to his defensive deficiencies.

McDaniels possesses decent length and his solid footwork will allow him to guard across multiple positions, especially as a perimeter defender, once he gets a better grasp of the NBA game. The 6’10” forward is not much of a rim protector, swatting just .5 blocks per game during his sophomore season, but that’s just another byproduct of being under-weight.

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Yes, McDaniels sounds like a huge project for a franchise like the Spurs who are committed to winning right now, but they should be hesitant before they decide to pass on him. McDaniels would undoubtedly redshirt his rookie season, spending most likely the entirety of his first year playing in the G League.

However, that exposure to the NBA game, competing against grown men and the opportunity to fail, grow and fine-tune his game will be invaluable for his long-term development and eventual contributions to the franchise. Playing with the Austin Spurs has been vital to the growth of players such as Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV and even Drew Eubanks and I believe it could do wonders for McDaniels’ game.

Once he’s ready to get minutes playing in San Antonio expect him to provide a spark off the bench for the team. Despite his weight, McDaniels has demonstrated he can score in a variety of ways. Once he polishes off the rough edges of his game and becoming a better long-range shooter, he’ll start to make a noticeable impact on the court.

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Further, with two picks in the first round of the draft this year, the Spurs have the luxury of taking a chance on McDaniels with their 29th pick and banking that their experienced coaching and developmental staff will be able to mold McDaniels into a viable role player.

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