Everything You Need To Know About Jaden McDaniels

Jaden McDaniels has the potential to be a lethal scorer. His smooth jumper combined with his length makes him difficult to defend. If he can piece it all together, he could be an impactful wing.

One of the most common platitudes that accompanies draft prospects is, "if he ever locks in, he could be awesome." No prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft embodies this more than Jaden McDaniels. In high school, McDaniels was a top ten recruit who highlighted the young, exciting core who chose Washington. Unfortunately, McDaniels' lone season at Washington far from lived up to the hype.

Despite his immense talent, McDaniels' turbulent freshman season consisted of questionable character moments, inconsistent production, and underwhelming team performance. Before we go further, let me be clear that when I say "questionable character moments," I refer to things I have heard and body language/interactions on the court. I do not know him personally and by no means am I trying to assassinate a 19-year-old kid's character.

With that disclaimer, McDaniels had some of the worst body language in college basketball this season. He frequently took himself out of games or acted like a petulant child when calls didn't go his way, resulting in fouling out eight times and six technical fouls.

Issues like these can get dangerous when evaluating prospects and emphasize the importance of interviews with the players and coaches. There could be a myriad of symptoms here. McDaniels may have been going through some personal issues off the court we aren't privy to. He may not love basketball and doesn't want to put the work in. He may have just been tired of the college grind and wanted to be done with the season. The point is, we don't know. What we do know, though, is the intangibles surrounding McDaniels are a reason for caution, but at the end of the day, his talent far outweighs any concerns with immaturity.

McDaniels has the potential to be one of the most lethal scorers to come out of this class. At 6'9 with a 6'11 wingspan, McDaniels' shot is nearly impossible to block. He proved to be an effective on and off-ball scorer as he scored 1.182 points per possession (PPP) shooting off the catch (84th percentile), 0.863 PPP (77th percentile) as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, and 0.778 PPP (54th percentile) shooting off the catch, per Synergy.

The underwhelming shooting numbers off the dribble are mostly due to poor shot selection. McDaniels frequently became impatient when it came to creating space and was relied on as a primary shot creator as the season progressed. As a prospect who likely won't see much playing time right away, this is an area of McDaniels' game that he can easily improve.

However, it is still noteworthy as there were some troubling trends in this part of his game. Here, McDaniels pushes in transition, but he doesn't have the numbers to his advantage. Instead of executing any dribble moves or pulling it out to reset the offense, McDaniels tries to rise over the smaller defender and misses the off-balance jumper early in the shot clock.

Again, McDaniels' impatience is on full display. He initially gets to his spot nicely, but he picks up his dribble too early and never entirely loses his defender. A more pronounced step-back would be welcomed here, or even better, a kick out to his open teammate on the wing.

McDaniels' proclivity for contested dribble jumpers is discouraging. It highlights his impatience, inconsistent ball-handling, and tunnel vision. There were some flashes of playmaking potential, but typically, McDaniels chose to recklessly drive into a crowd and miss the kick out opportunity.

I don't flatly dislike players with a score-first mentality, but there isn't much of an excuse for McDaniels missing his teammate in the opposite corner. The charge is excusable if he tried a dribble move, but McDaniels purely barrels into his defender without looking for his teammate once.

His lack of playmaking allows defenses to key in on McDaniels and outmuscle him. One of the biggest knocks on McDaniels' time at Washington was how he didn't improve his body. With his lanky frame, adding muscle is much harder, but reports suggested that the work just wasn't put in.

Hopefully, this is just a symptom of McDaniels being a teenager, and once he is fully immersed in an NBA routine and program, his body will see some form of transformation. Until that happens, though, McDaniels will be easy to turn away in the post.

That was a lot of doom and gloom with McDaniels, but I promise there is a lot to like about him as a player. Now that the concerns are out of the way, let's focus on what makes McDaniels an enjoyable prospect.

Despite the lack of high-end playmaking chops, McDaniels can be lethal running the pick-and-roll. He scored 0.863 PPP (77th percentile) overall and 1.103 PPP (86th percentile) when he dribbled off the pick and took a jumper. His high release and feathery touch make him very difficult to recover, especially when the defense is playing drop coverage.

Additionally, McDaniels was a promising creator out of the pick-and-roll. When he passed out of the pick-and-roll, his teammates scored 1.111 PPP (82nd percentile) overall and 1.308 PPP (91st percentile) when he passed to the roll man. While it won't be an immediate strength for McDaniels, don't be surprised if we see him running the pick-and-roll at a high level in the next couple of years.

Earlier, we saw rudimentary ball-handling from McDaniels. I wanted to focus on that because it is an area for improvement, but also because it is frustrating due to clips like below.

McDaniels has flashes like this, where he uses a hesitation into a behind-the-back dribble to lose his defender. The hope is McDaniels integrates this more into his shot creation arsenal, and we see more finesse instead of irrational brute force.

With any early playing time that McDaniels earns, he will likely be used mostly as an off-ball scorer. He is comfortable shooting off the catch and has the athleticism to attack closeouts. He has excellent touch, and his high release makes it impossible for defenders to recover when they help off of him.

His shooting forces defenders to aggressively closeout on him. While McDaniels has no issues rising over them for a jumper, he is also adept at driving right past them to finish at the rim.

He can use a shot fake to momentarily freeze his defender before beating him off the dribble.

Or he can immediately attack a sloppy closeout and use his length for an emphatic finish.

The off-ball scoring aspect of McDaniels' game shouldn't be a concern. He has a pretty jumper and athleticism to attack off the dribble. As he refines his ball-handling, I expect his scoring versatility only to improve.

Defensively, McDaniels is a more difficult nut to crack. A significant reason for this is the expanded, undisciplined nature of Washington's zone, but McDaniels was also inconsistent in his own right. McDaniels had issues with his positioning and would get caught ball-watching, but I attribute many of those struggles to a system he was unfamiliar with.

While I expect some of McDaniels' lapses in defensive discipline to spill over into his man defense, there were some encouraging signs regarding his defense, most notably his shot-blocking. McDaniels' length helped him prove his effectiveness as a weakside shot blocker. He lacks the strength to be a primary rim protector, but his length and timing will be significant assets as a weakside shot blocker.

McDaniels' eagerness to block shots will likely get him in trouble as an on-ball defender as he chases blocks, but I expect him to be an asset defensive when he rotates from the weak side. His timing is impressive, and he uses every inch of his wingspan. Even more encouraging is the joy and passion McDaniels goes after the blocks with.

It's a small thing, but the intensity McDaniels shows here suggests that he takes defense seriously and wants to be a good defender. It may be that he is just looking for the highlight play, but I'd like to believe that it is because he takes his role as a weakside shot blocker seriously.

Jaden McDaniels will be one of the biggest riddles of this draft. He has the talent to be an impact player, but if he doesn't figure out the game's mental side, it wouldn't be surprising if he's out of the league in a few years. From day one, McDaniels will be a good shooter. If he improves his ball-handling and his strength as well, his scoring versatility will skyrocket. However, to carve out a role, McDaniels must prove that he can be an excellent on-ball defender.

Despite having a lottery pick's raw talent, Jaden McDaniels will likely fall to the late first round. If he is willing to work and a team is patient with him, he could easily be one of the best values in this draft. Like so many prospects, his situation will play a significant factor in determining if Jaden McDaniels is a diamond in the rough or just fools gold.

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