On the night of the 2020 NBA Draft, all eyes were on former Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Gersson Rosas. After trading a few players and picks, Minnesota selected Jaden McDaniels 28th overall. A forward out of the University of Washington, McDaniels showed a tremendous amount of upside during his time at U-Dub.
McDaniels, a physically gifted player with a diverse skill set, was widely known for receiving technical fouls during a collegiate career. And after being drafted by one of the more unstable franchises in the league, fans were concerned. Many assumed that Jaden would be something of a project player for the Timberwolves, spending most of his time as a rookie playing in Iowa for the team’s G-League affiliate. But a COVID-stricken season forced the G-League’s start date to be postponed, and McDaniels showed he deserved a spot in the rotation.
With the Feb. 10 trade deadline approaching, fans have been rapidly scouring across online trade machines to find the “perfect deal” for their favorite team. Sachin Gupta has publicly stated that he would categorize the team as “buyers” at the deadline, per Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. And if the front office senses that the current roster is nothing more than a perennial first-round bounce, Gupta and Co. may look to acquire a proven player who will help them exceed expectations.
But to acquire a proven player, the Wolves will have to part ways with a valuable asset. Anthony Edwards is the face of the franchise, and the team will only go as far as he takes them. Trading Karl-Anthony Towns, a transcendent big man, would only bring in other lesser pieces. And D’Angelo Russell, although the most likely of the three, has been a true leader for this young team. Plus, I’m sure the front office doesn’t want to piss off his best friend KAT.
Coming off a career-high 22 points on 100% shooting from the field, it seems a bit deranged even to discuss McDaniels’ value as he hits his stride. But for Minnesota, now may be the perfect time to test the second-year forward’s value on the trade market.
The Timberwolves are a game above .500 through 51 games into the season. And although the team’s record doesn’t justify how good they’ve been this year, the worst place for an NBA team to be stuck in the middle. Teams that aren’t contenders but too good to be in the lottery need to be aggressive to get out of no-man’s land. And with Edwards vocalizing his desires to achieve both individual and team success, the Wolves’ front office should do everything in its power to avoid being just average.
What’s the best way for a small-market team to separate itself from the pack? Make trades. That’s why it’s worth exploring McDaniels’ trade market.
In just under two seasons, McDaniels has already found his way into the hearts of lifelong fans of the franchise, myself included. Some even proclaimed him as one of the cornerstones of the team’s future.
And I completely understand why. McDaniels has the needed length and versatility to defend four different positions. And in only 110 career games, McDaniels has already showcased a lot of defensive potential that could result in a few individual awards. And with a team-friendly contract that only guarantees him $4.02 million through the end of next year, I’m sure teams would be lining up at Gupta’s door to check on his availability.
Look, I love Jaden. Everyone loves Jaden. There’s a lot to McDaniels’ game that could hurt his trade value.
For starters, he commits a lot of fouls. He ranks second on the team in personal fouls (3.4) per game. Only Towns, who leads the league with 3.7 per game, commits more fouls than him. It’s a major reason why head coach Chris Finch decided to bump McDaniels down to a bench role. He was committing far too many fouls against opponents’ better players.
Then there’s the inconsistent 3-pointer. After McDaniels rookie season, it seemed clear that he had a future in this league as a competent 3-and-D wing. A rookie shooting above 36% on over three 3PAs per game while maintaining immaculate defensive pressure on Minnesota’s opponents? Sign me up. But we’re three months into the season, and McDaniels is only shooting 29% from beyond the arc. He’s in a bit of a sophomore shooting slump. But with Finch instructing McDaniels to worry about simply playing the game rather than knocking down shots in the corner, Jaden’s recent play has shown signs of a player who is finally comfortable on the offensive side of the ball.
Even with the limitations of McDaniels’ game, there’s still a handful of teams that may be willing to overpay for the 6’9″ wing. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks are desperate to find a player who can help defend on the perimeter. The Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers are one trade away from stepping into full rebuild mode. Hell, even the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz would probably pay a pretty penny for McDaniels, given both of their respective starting 3s are projected to be out for the remainder of the season.
Look, all I’m saying is that both the fans and Minnesota’s front office have to stop being intimidated by the idea of making major roster moves. Nobody wants to see the same mistake that the team made last year when they declined the Atlanta Hawks proposal of John Collins in exchange for Malik Beasley and a first-round pick.
McDaniels’ value in today’s game is a bit uncertain. He’s got all the potential in the world to be a great 3-and-D player. He could be even more if you believe he can be an adequate playmaker, although I don’t see it. But for now, he’s still an unfinished product. For teams looking to sell high on their highly sought-after players to begin a rebuild, the quiet kid from Federal Way may only be a small piece in a much larger negotiation.
I would love to keep McDaniels in Minnesota for the entirety of his career. He’s a player that nearly every team would love to have. And with him finally seeming to make sense of scoring in today’s game, the Wolves could potentially have one of the biggest steals in recent draft history. But then again, let’s not hold onto assets long past their peak trade value.