Nov 19, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; San Antonio Spurs draft prospect, Washington Huskies forward Jaden McDaniels (4) shoots against the Maine Black Bears during the second half at Alaska Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Would polarizing forward Jaden McDaniels fit with the San Antonio Spurs?
In a rare break from tradition, the San Antonio Spurs have found themselves at the forefront of the NBA conversation for the past few days. For a team that likes to move in silence, they’re sure being talked about a lot.
It’s not entirely a surprise. San Antonio has quite a few important decisions to make over the next week that could have ripple effects across the NBA landscape. Their biggest and most pressing decisions center around how they’re going to approach the upcoming NBA Draft.
Will they trade LaMarcus Aldridge to the Golden State Warriors to move up into the top-three, could they look to move DeMar DeRozan to get the 6th pick, or will they simply stand pat and take a shot on whoever remains at 11? Really it’s anyone’s guess.
If the Spurs do decide to stay at 11 one player who could be on their way to San Antonio soon is Jaden McDaniels. In his most recent mock draft, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor mentioned that McDaniels has been highlighted by his sources as a potential target for the Spurs.
Frankly, I’m a little surprised that San Antonio would be looking at McDaniels. Positionally he’s quite similar to Luka Samanic and, like Luka, he’s going to need some time in the G-League to develop. He’s not necessarily a sure thing either. He’s got an incredibly high ceiling but there’s no guarantee that he ever realizes his full potential.
He’s a fascinating prospect who does have some serious two-way potential. Here’s what you need to know about Jaden McDaniels on both ends of the floor.
Next: A multi-positional defender
Mar 5, 2020; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Washington Huskies forward Jaden McDaniels (0) defends an inbounds pass by Arizona State Sun Devils guard Remy Martin (1) during the second half at Desert Financial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Jaden McDaniels could do everything on defense for the San Antonio Spurs
Standing 6’10 with a nearly 7-foot wingspan, Jaden McDaniels combines the size of a center with the athleticism and speed of a wing. This gives him serious defensive potential. That is if he ever dedicates himself to that part of the game.
His length automatically makes him a potentially dominant rim protector. And blocks do make up a large part of his defensive highlights. He sent back 1.8 shots per 40 minutes and showed a keen eye for timing his blocks well, either man to man or as the weakside defender.
He wasn’t able to use his physical tools to generate quite as many steals. He only averaged 0.8 per game during his lone season with the Washington Huskies. But if he can improve on his ability to read defenses and predict passes there’s little reason to believe that a player with his dimensions wouldn’t be able to be a difference-maker in passing lanes.
McDaniels’s defensive potential is intimately linked to his ability to add muscle to his very thin frame. He’s lanky as hell but man, he is going to be absolutely bullied at the next level if he’s not able to add weight.
Fouls were already a bit of a problem for him in college and that was going against players who are half as strong and not nearly as crafty as the veterans he will face in the NBA. If he tries to overcompensate for his weaker lower body he’s just going to end up fouling even more. If he wants to have a chance on the defensive end he needs to make hitting the weight room his number one priority during his rookie season.
He’s got all of the potential in the world to be an impactful player on defense but he’s going to need to come to the right situation if he wants to realize it. He’s going to need a proven strength program, a development team where he can be free to make mistakes as he learns, and a coaching staff that will patiently bring him to where he needs to be as a defender. The San Antonio Spurs check all three boxes.
Next: A scorer who can hit from anywhere
Nov 22, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies forward Jaden McDaniels (4) shoots against the Montana Grizzlies during the first half at Alaska Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jaden McDaniels brings an interesting dynamic to the San Antonio Spurs offense
McDaniels has one of the highest ceilings in the draft as it pertains to his offensive potential. His rare combination of length, athleticism, and ball skills could make him an incredibly dangerous scoring option down the road.
I tend to shy away from player comparisons but it’s hard not to see the resemblances between McDaniels and Michael Porter Jr. Both are long, skilled forwards with a penchant for pull-up jumpers.
One of the most impressive parts of Jaden’s game right now is his handle. You don’t see too many players with his size moving the ball as smoothly as McDaniels does. He’s got a fairly advanced bag of dribble moves at it stands today.
It all starts with his hang dribble. He’s great at using that brief half-second pause to judge what to do next and attack. Off that one move, he’s shown an ability to branch off into a variety of attacking dribbles or simply pull up and drain a jumper over his defender.
His ability to shoot the ball is what’s going to get him drafted. His percentages at Washington – 34 percent from deep and 76 percent from the free-throw line – won’t reflect it but McDaniels has the look of a potentially elite shooter. He’s got a smooth, high release and looks very comfortable letting it go from anywhere.
His willingness to shoot the ball whenever will have to be reigned in at the next level. He’s a bit one dimensional as an offensive talent right now but with the right coaching and a few years of maturation, there’s little reason to believe that he won’t become a very well-rounded offensive player.
But he’s not without areas for improvement. He needs to improve as a passer and his decision-making could stand to improve. And as it is with his defense, a lot of his potential is going to be tied to developing his body.
We’ve talked a lot about what he can do on the perimeter but his ability to have an impact in the paint is significantly more limited right now. He’s bumped off his drives far too easily and doesn’t really have much of a post-game as it stands today.
He’s a crafty and acrobatic finisher but, ideally, a player of his size wouldn’t have to contort himself into a mid-air pretzel every time he attacks the basket. If he puts on weight and starts throwing himself into the fray a bit more he should have no problem being a regular at the charity stripe but given how thin he is right now I don’t see that happening any time soon.
If the San Antonio Spurs are comfortable taking a shot with their 11th overall pick then Jaden McDaniels could be their guy. He’s a higher-risk player than I’d like them to go after but you can’t deny his talent. If he ever reaches his ceiling this could end up being an excellent move by San Antonio.