Why Jaden McDaniels deserves an All-Defense selection

Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Over the course of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2022-23 season, there have been multiple players that have exceeded expectations. Anthony Edwards took an even bigger third-year leap than expected, and Kyle Anderson surprised everyone with how effective he has been at filling multiple roles.

But we can not overlook how incredible a season Jaden McDaniels is having, either. Playing in his third season after arriving in Minnesota at the same time as Anthony Edwards, McDaniels has blown fans away with his superb on-ball defense and much improved offensive repertoire.

Jaden entered the season with a reputation as an above-average defender, but his performance on that end of the floor has been so spectacular this year that it is inspiring nicknames from the fanbase like “The Seatbelt.” Looking at McDaniels’ full body of work this year, there is no question he is deserving of an All-Defensive team selection.

Jaden McDaniels has emerged as one of the premier wing defenders in the NBA.

Frequently taking on the role of defending the opposing team’s best player, Jaden McDaniels has solidified himself as the Timberwolves’ go-to defender when a stop is needed. According to ESPN, he has taken on a grand total of 1,012 defensive matchups against NBA All-Stars in the current season. Only Dillon Brooks and Mikal Bridges have defended All-Stars on more possessions than McDaniels.

While no one is going to stop the best scorers in the world every single time down the floor, McDaniels has proven he is as good as anyone else in the NBA in that department. This season, he has routinely made life much more difficult for even the most polished offensive players like Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.

Just last Sunday, McDaniels’ defense came up clutch late in the game against the Warriors. With the Wolves up two and less than 10 seconds remaining, Golden State inbounded the ball and did their best to get the ball in Steph Curry’s hands. Despite Steph’s best efforts to shake him, Jaden McDaniels stuck with him and did not allow Curry to touch the ball, forcing a turnover that sealed Minnesota’s win.

How many players make the All-Defense teams?

The evidence to Jaden McDaniels’ defensive talent and value is evident to anyone paying attention. Whether he receives the recognition for his achievements is another matter. The fact of the matter is that only a select few players are named to All-Defensive teams each year, and it is up to the voters to recognize McDaniels’ outstanding season.

When the selections are made, five players will be recognized as first-team All-Defense while five more will be honored as second-team All-Defense. Two guards, two forwards, and one center are recognized on each team. With McDaniels being eligible as a forward, he will have some stiff competition to beat out, like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jaren Jackson Jr.

NBA accolades have not always added up historically. Tim Duncan, who owns the record for most All-Defense selections of all time with 15, never won a Defensive Player of the Year award. Jaden McDaniels may have a bit of an uphill climb with voters since he does not have as much of a defensive track record as someone like Giannis. But even if he is not honored as All-Defense this season, his talent is becoming increasingly hard to deny.

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