What Nowell and McDaniels have done with increased offensive roles for the Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell has been asked to step up for his short-handed squad. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell has been asked to step up for his short-handed squad. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports /
3 of 3
Minnesota Timberwolves, Jaden McDaniels
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels has seen his offensive role grow. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

Jaden McDaniels is turning flashes into consistency for the Timberwolves

McDaniels is a much different case from Nowell. The forward was a much more raw prospect coming out of college and is younger, so his developments in the recent stretch are more about figuring out how to repeat the occasional brilliance.

McDaniels is averaging 10.1 points and 1.7 assists in nearly twice Nowell’s minutes at 29 per game since the loss to the Cavaliers. He’s only shooting 30 percent from three and has a mediocre 49.2 effective field goal percentage in the last seven contests, but both are marked improvements of about three percentage points over his season mark.

“Big Mac” was an intriguing prospect in part because of the potential in his combination of size, athleticism and fluidity. He’s used those assets more productively on defense thus far in his career, but every once in a while he’ll pull out some impressive handles to get to the basket. It’s happened more frequently as he has been given more opportunity.

As McDaniels continues to build on his skills, he should make these pro-style moves more frequently.

On the other hand, cutting is something that McDaniels can do to fit in and provide production right now. He’s getting better at finding his spots and throwing his weight around to carve out space. It’s always impressive to knock LeBron James off his spot and score on him, even when the King is dealing with foul trouble.

McDaniels is also showing progression as a passer while taking a bigger role in the offense. His assist percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio are both up in the last seven games, and while they aren’t particularly impressive numbers, he has shown he can take a greater burden without getting sloppy.

It’s hard to see, but on the first play above McDaniels jumps, catches a pass under the basket, twists and throws a dime right into Malik Beasley’s shooting pocket all in one motion. Beasley missed, but this was a play that popped out on the screen as an indication of untapped playmaking potential in McDaniels.

Minnesota’s opponents have frequently put their center on one of the Wolves’ forwards, believing players like McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt can’t hurt them for sagging into help position. McDaniels displayed more important progress against the Jazz by attacking Rudy Gobert in a multitude of ways en route to a 16-9-7 stat line.

McDaniels punished the “Stifle Tower” by burning him with cuts once Gobert turned his head and using his agility to gain the upper hand as Russell’s roll man. In doing so, McDaniels showed he is learning how to attack defensive schemes that will become even more prevalent with Towns on the court.

The 2020 first-round pick is still experiencing a big learning curve, so there are frequent mistakes. His shooting is down from the 36.4 percent mark he posted last year, although that should even out in time.

McDaniels also has issues stringing moves together consistently. He’s still figuring out how to get the shot he wants regularly and frequently gets the ball slapped away when driving to the basket.

Still, that’s to be expected from a second-year project, and the flashes are enough to be optimistic about McDaniels. He and Nowell are showing that increased opportunity could unlock the skill sets the Wolves need so desperately.

Next. Malik Beasley should be a regular starter for the Wolves. dark

As the Wolves go into a bit of an easier stretch on the schedule still short-handed, they’ll need both McDaniels and Nowell to continue performing at a high level as they await the return of their top performers.