In what has long been a foregone conclusion, Jaden McDaniels ended any speculation last night and declared his intention to enter the 2020 NBA Draft and forego his remaining college eligibility. The 6’9 freshman out of Federal Way finishes his Husky career averaging 13 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game on 40.5% shooting from the floor.
For nearly 2 years there had been no doubt that McDaniels would take the first opportunity to head to the NBA but the way the Huskies’ season played out gave some the slightest pause. McDaniels was viewed as a potential #1 overall pick coming off the AAU circuit in his junior year but had a slightly underwhelming senior campaign and wound up #8 in the 247 sports composite recruiting rankings.
Jaden then did not make the trip with the team to Italy in August as there were brief eligibility concerns but was cleared before the home exhibition. Possibly the best moment of his short Husky career came in the season opener against Baylor when McDaniels had 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks against a team destined for a #1 seed in a non-COVID world. During Washington’s losing streak Jaden slumped badly leading to him coming off the bench over the final third of the season. Some of that may have been attributable to an ankle injury which kept him out of the win over Oregon State but some was due to not playing within the team concept.
Jaden struggled mightily with shot selection and turnovers despite his obvious talent. Far too often he pulled up for long 2’s and while he shot better than average in those attempts they were an extremely inefficient shot. He often settled because despite having a great handle for someone his height, McDaniels’ dribble was too high and prone to the ball being swiped away when maneuvering through traffic. His 3.2 turnovers per game were highest on the team and explained his 92.0 offensive efficiency rating (100 is roughly average).
The issues on the offensive end were compounded by a seeming lack of maturity in other aspects of the game as well. McDaniels led the conference in technical fouls and they were often for unnecessary reactions. Jaden would emphatically block shots after the whistle leading to trouble or get in other players’ faces. He even earned a technical foul while on the bench as the ball rolled to him and he hit an opposing player with it throwing it back onto the court. Eventually he earned a reputation with the refs and was not given the benefit of the doubt afforded to other players but he rarely helped himself or the team with the behavior.
The above two paragraphs have had a negative slant but there were clear upsides to Jaden’s season. He showed off enormous defensive potential as evidenced by his 0.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Most impressive was his ability to stay in front of smaller guards attempting to drive which will serve him well in the NBA. Looking at the shot chart above you’ll see he was much more comfortable shooting from the shooter’s left side of the court and can succeed early if primarily operating from that area.
The relatively disappointing campaign slid Jaden from a seeming lock as a top-5 overall pick to 16th on Jonathan Givony’s most recent big board. The NBA drafts on upside and it’s clear that Jaden has all of the physical tools to succeed in the current version of the league. Teams will be willing to bet on that upside and count on their ability to improve his basketball IQ and maturity as he gets older.
Washington has now lost Sam Timmins (graduation), Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart (early NBA entry), and Elijah Hardy (transfer) off last year’s roster. They’ve been replaced by Nate Pryor (JUCO) and Erik Stevenson (transfer) which leaves the Huskies projected to have 11 scholarships spoken for this upcoming season provided there are no more departures. Without Jaden you can expect the Huskies to get smaller at the wing as 6’6 Jamal Bey and 6’5 RaeQuan Battle likely get more minutes (and 6’3 Erik Stevenson if he become eligible for the upcoming year).
Over the course of the season Jaden was a constant source of criticism from a large portion of the fanbase, some earned and some not. Jaden’s tendency to not emote while on the court stood in stark contrast to Isaiah Stewart’s infectious smile and was taken as a sign he didn’t care which was not a fair conclusion.
He could have gone nearly anywhere in the country but ultimately decided to stay local and play for the hometown Huskies. Things didn’t turn out the way anyone wanted but Jaden kept playing hard despite being benched mid-season and had 20 points and just 1 turnover in the team’s regular season finale road win over Arizona.
Best of luck Jaden in the NBA and hopefully you find a landing spot that will put you in a position to succeed and help to grow your prodigious talent.