Minnesota Timberwolves 2021 season grades: Jaden McDaniels

Jaden McDaniels of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Jaden McDaniels of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

Relative to expectations, the Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t have many players that stood out like Jaden McDaniels did, particularly for a late-first round rookie.

Jaden McDaniels, brother of the Charlotte Hornets’ Jalen McDaniels (yes, I know, very similar names) was perhaps one of the better two-way players on the Timberwolves this past season.

McDaniels was the 28th overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft, and was not expected to contribute as a rookie. Through the first two games of the season, he quite simply didn’t. Then head coach Ryan Saunders eventually implemented McDaniels into the rotation, where he shined and (eventually) earned a consistent starting spot.

Minnesota Timberwolves season grades: Jaden McDaniels

Jaden McDaniels’s averages aren’t very impressive. He gave the Timberwolves 6.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists every game, while averaging 0.6 steals and 1.0 blocks on top of that figure. McDaniels had impressive splits of 45/36/60 as a rookie, as well.

Jaden McDaniels was largely seen as a project player – someone that could be several years away from contributing.

Fran Fraschilla diagnosed Bruno Caboclo as being “two years away from being two years away” in his draft-night ESPN analysis back in 2014. And that’s exactly how I felt (as well as a lot of people felt) about McDaniels entering the 2020 NBA Draft.

With that said, he was one of the best NBA rookies this season. McDaniels was able to impact winning – yes – winning, as a rookie, in large part due to his defensive prowess. McDaniels was able to switch onto frontcourt players, as well as guard both the perimeter and the paint. He was one of the best NBA rookies in terms of overall defense, and the fact that McDaniels was able to hit 36-percent of his threes on top of that was amazing.

Jaden McDaniels season grade: A

Jaden McDaniels is not going to get much love in terms of the All-Rookie teams – I am confident in that much. He was hidden away on an unpopular Minnesota team, and just recently started getting consistent, starting-level minutes. The Timberwolves really were able to hit on both he and Anthony Edwards in the 2020 NBA Draft, and they will both be high-level players for years to come.