The Minnesota Timberwolves are in the midst of their most successful season to date, accumulating a 28-11 record nearly halfway through the campaign. However, like any team, there's always room to improve, especially if the team is gearing up for a legitimate playoff run. That’s where the scoring ability of two-way small-forward Jaden McDaniels comes in.
McDaniels was selected with the 28th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Washington product has been one of the best value draft selections based on his defensive impact alone. Many players have deemed McDaniels as one of the best perimeter stoppers in the league.
The young wing has consistently shown improvement throughout his brief career as an offensive threat, increasing his points per game and field goal percentage through each of his first three seasons.
Heading into his fourth year, McDaniels was handed a five-year $136 million contract extension, largely based on his potential. The Wolves have a cut-and-dry offensive duo in Anthony Edwards and Karl Anthony-Towns but have yet to find a consistent tertiary scorer. Many were hoping that McDaniels, especially considering the significant contract, was going to be able to embrace that role.
Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case so far this season. McDaniels has missed 10 regular season games due to several injuries. And despite showing flashes on the offensive end, he has regressed to 10.5 points per game following a season where he averaged 12.1. Although he's still having an efficient year with 51/36/74 splits, the volume has not been where some fans and media members may have expected, averaging only 8.6 field goals per game.
Now some may be wondering if McDaniels needs to have a significant role on offense given the success the Wolves have had this season. The short answer is yes. There's a direct correlation between McDaniels' scoring output and the Wolves success.
When McDaniels has 14 or more points this year, the Wolves have a 6-1 record. During these games, the young wing is averaging 12 field goal attempts. When McDaniels has 13 points or less, Minnesota has a less impressive 14-8 record, and his field goal attempts decrease significantly, averaging only 7.5 through these games. This all goes to show not just how important his scoring can be, but also the need for him to be actively looking to get his shots off and find a rhythm.
Time to Compete
In the 2023 NBA Playoffs, the Wolves were without McDaniels and sixth-man Naz Reid due to injuries in a year that saw the Timberwolves fall to the first-seeded Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the first round. Despite losing in five games to the eventual 2023 NBA Champions, many players and media members acknowledged that the Timberwolves were the biggest test for the Nuggets during their championship run.
The importance of having a versatile wing who can provide a scoring punch cannot be understated in the modern NBA, especially once it comes to the postseason. When the lights shine brightest opponents gameplans will hone in on Edwards and Towns, meaning that a player such as McDaniels will be even more pivotal in the Timberwolves' potential playoff run.
If the Wolves can stay healthy, and with the Western Conference seemingly being wide open this year, the franchise has an opportunity to make some noise this postseason.