The officiating in today's NBA may cater heavily towards offensive players, but there are still plenty around the league who take pride in preventing the opposition from putting the ball through the hoop. But there may not be a more confident defender in the NBA today than Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels, who proclaimed himself as the “best defender” in the league at the moment.
Speaking with Shams Charania of The Athletic, McDaniels expressed his belief that he's a cut above the rest when it comes to locking up the opposition.
“I do believe [that I'm the best defender in the NBA],” McDaniels said. “My versatility, one night I might guard Giannis, the next day I gotta guard Trae Young or something, so just being able to guard one through four and just hold my own.”
Timberwolves rising two-way standout Jaden McDaniels sits down with @Stadium: “I do believe I’m the best defender in the NBA.” On his All-Defensive team desires, trying to stop NBA’s best, Jamal Murray saying “stop blocking my jumpers”, entering league with Anthony Edwards, more. pic.twitter.com/aN3kHX7SNr
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 23, 2023
Jaden McDaniels then dove even deeper into the mindset that he brings that allows him to maximize his great defensive instincts and physical tools.
“I kinda go into it just making it difficult for them. I know they're gonna make shots. Everyone's good. They're NBA players. So just trying to make it as tough as possible. For me, one thing defensively, I gotta always contest the shots. Just me coming in with that competitive mindset,” the Timberwolves forward added.
There's a reason that the Timberwolves fought tooth and nail to keep Jaden McDaniels in Minnesota even after the Utah Jazz tried their best in acquiring him in the blockbuster Rudy Gobert trade in the offseason. Before this season even began, McDaniels was already one of the most versatile defenders in the league, guarding each position on the court at least 10 percent of the time all the while being a great deterrent at the rim.
Beyond McDaniels' stellar defensive work, however, it seems like he's also taking a leap on the offensive end. He has scored in double-digits over the past seven games, including two 25-point efforts.
Is the Timberwolves forward truly the best defender in the NBA? That remains to be seen. He still has stiff competition for that distinction, as the likes of OG Anunoby, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Mikal Bridges can all make solid cases of their own for being the “best defender” in the league. But it truly is a testament to how far McDaniels that he belongs in such lofty company.