The Minnesota Timberwolves have higher ambitions than the first round exit they suffered last season after giving up a considerable amount of draft capital to acquire three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz. Gobert will surely shore up the Timberwolves' team defense; however, perimeter defenders need to hold their own as well, which we've seen the Jazz lack in recent seasons, so the Timberwolves will be relying heavily on Jaden McDaniels to lock down opposing wing scorers to supplement Gobert.
And it appears McDaniels is more than up to the task of doing so.
According to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, McDaniels' defensive versatility will make him such a linchpin for the Timberwolves, guarding everyone from point guards to centers while doing so at an elite level, both on the perimeter and at the rim, per BBall Index data.
“According to BBall’s tracking data, McDaniels most frequently guarded power forwards (24.39 percent of the time), followed by shooting guards (24.04), small forwards (20.87), point guards (19.91) and centers (10.79). He is the youngest player in the database to post a season that versatile while also grading as highly on BBall’s overall defensive impact metric,” Krawczynski wrote. “Once adjusted for shooter, opponents shot 7.56 percent worse at the rim than expected when McDaniels contested the shot. [Derrick] White was the only wing stopper with a better number, at 7.80 percent.”
Those are impressive numbers for a 21-year old, and it makes Jaden McDaniels so invaluable already despite his inexperience. In fact, the Timberwolves acknowledged just how vital McDaniels' defensive prowess already is by fighting hard to keep him out of the Rudy Gobert trade. And now, McDaniels has some lofty goals for himself entering his third season.
“We’re going for first team All-Defense this year,” McDaniels said. “[It may be difficult] but I’m going to make one of them.”
Nonetheless, it'll be difficult for Jaden McDaniels to impact the game if he can't cut down on his fouls per game average (3.2) that ranked in the top 10 in the league despite only playing around 26 minutes a night. He also needs to improve his offensive game, but it appears that won't be a problem after he showed flashes of his improved scoring by dropping 52 in an exhibition game. Nevertheless, it's on the defensive end that he'll earn his bread, and McDaniels is well on his way to becoming one of the most feared players on that end of the floor.