Washington’s Jaden McDaniels is a raw prospect with a high ceiling, and a chance to go at the end of the lottery in the 2020 NBA Draft. If he slips just a bit, the Milwaukee Bucks could be waiting to gobble him up around the 19th or 20th overall pick they received from the Indiana Pacers last summer.
Weight: 184 pounds
Per Game Stats:
Jaden McDaniels’s freshman year at Washington reminded me a lot of a fawn learning to walk: there were times he excelled, looking like he was going to run away from the competition, but there were more times he looked out of place and overwhelmed like a bow-legged fawn falling over itself as it tries to walk for the first time. Inconsistent is certainly the word to describe the highly-touted recruit who saw his draft stock fall last year due to grave concerns about his lack of strength, among other issues. The good news is he showed his best is better than most of the prospect’s in this class. Let’s dive into what makes him so erratic.
Mobility: One of McDaniels’ biggest strengths is the way he moves—both with and without the ball—despite standing 6’10”. He runs the court like a gazelle and has no issue blowing past the defense in a sprint. This allows his teammates to hit him in stride for easy buckets in transition. Even when he does have the ball, he bobs in and out of his dribbles like a wing and can hit his defenders with two-to-three dribble moves in a row; he specializes in a tight behind the back dribble that often catches defenders leaning the wrong way. He uses his mobility and above-average handles to create space for him either on his way to the basket or for one of his patented pull-ups just inside the arc.
Touch: Part of McDaniels’ allure is his potential to be a three-level scorer. He currently has work to do, but flashed the ability to score from anywhere on the court due to his nice, soft touch. He has a way of getting the ball up on the rim and allowing the natural spin to do the rest of the work. This allows him to connect on threes, mid-rangers and even a few floaters—which he’s surprisingly good at.
Weak Side Help Defense: He has big-time potential to be an eraser from the weak side. His mobility allows him to cover a lot of ground when helping off his man and his wingspan (6’11.5”) does the rest. He also has good leaping ability when given a head start into his jump.
Strength: This is the root of all evil for McDaniels. Weighing in at only 184 pounds, he’s just four pounds heavier than the 18-year-old, 6-foot-5 Theo Maledon in this same draft class. Weight isn’t everything, but McDaniels is all arms and legs at this point in his career. He has serious issues finishing at the rim once he gets there due to his lack of strength. He’s also likely to get knocked off his spot, forcing a more difficult shot or a turnover. It’s also unclear exactly how much muscle he can add to his frame. His shoulders are narrow and he doesn’t appear to have a body that supports a lot of weight gain (think Thon Maker).
Raw: McDaniels flashed in a lot of categories—outside shooting, pull-up jumper, agility, weak side shot-blocking, etc—but it was just that, a flash in the pan. He was just as likely to look like a fish out of water; prone to silly mistakes that cost his team dearly (he averaged a whopping 3.2 turnovers per game). Adding strength will help with a lot of his issues, but he also needs refinement to his game. The potential is certainly there, but he’s much more of a project than an NBA-caliber player as he enters the draft.
- He really likes his pull-up jumper.
- Not great vertical leaping ability when not given room to gain momentum.
- Modern forward — perimeter oriented.
- High release that allows him to get his shot up over most defenders.
- Has a step-back in his repertoire.
- Good agility side to side, but not so much north/south.
- Led Pac-12 in turnovers and fouls.
Definitely components of Jonathan Isaac
The Bucks will likely have a need at their backup forward spot heading into the 2020 campaign. Ersan Ilyasova is technically under contract for one more season, but they can get out of it scot-free by waiving him. Marvin Williams is also a free agent and D.J. Wilson has yet to inspire confidence in Mike Budenholzer.
Unfortunately, Milwaukee will have the same issue whether they draft McDaniels or not. He’s a project who will take at least a year or two before he’s ready to contribute at the NBA level.
His biggest weaknesses is his lack of strength. He has the handles and agility to attack his man with his dribble, but was easily bodied off his spot both on his way to the rim and once he got there. This led to a lot of negative results for McDaniels and his team, including wild shots, turnovers and missed opportunities. If he was consistently pushed around in college, what do you think will happen against grown men?
He did show the ability to turn into a good weak side defender. His mobility and wingspan allow him to swallow opposing shots at the rim. He does have to calm down a bit, as he led the Pac-12 in fouls—averaging 4.4 per 40 minutes.
Fortunately, he showed skills that could help him grow into a starting-caliber player; something that can’t be said about every player projected to go in the Bucks’ range.
He has very good handles for someone his size and can beat his man off the bounce. He has nice touch from all over the court, including when he can’t get all the way to the rim. His pull-up game is probably his favorite move (for better or worse), as he loves to hit his defender with a crossover before rising and firing. His length and high release allow him to get the shot off cleanly despite a tight contest.
He only made 33.9 percent of his looks from deep last year, but his shot mechanics look clean. He can spot-up behind the arc, providing his teammates with an outlet on the outside. He would likely have to develop into an average three-point shooter, at minimum, to become a true contributor at the next level.
Despite McDaniels’ attractive traits, Milwaukee’s willingness to draft him could come down to patience. Do they want to pick someone who is a year or two away? If they feel they can buy time with another year or so of Williams or Ilyasova, then McDaniels could be their man.